Transportation Services Provider Gets Cash Infusion

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COLUMBIA - Non-profit transportation services provider, OATS, received $50,000 in new money Tuesday. OATS provides transportation for the elderly, disabled, those in rural populations, and others.

Walmart donated the money Tuesday after OATS started charging its clients for the service. Before July 1, OATS was free. The transporation system asked its members to donate
money. Only some people chose to donate.

"This gives a level playing field because now you don't have some riders giving a donation while others do not," said OATS Executive Director Dorothy Yeager.

OATS now costs $1 to $5 per ride, depending on the community. OATS institued the fare because of a funding defecit due to federal budget cuts.

OATS leaders said the fare helps cover variable costs, such as gas prices.

With the new donation, OATS will not lower its fees or stop charging its clients, but will
increase the rides it gives, especially rides for its clients to work.

Currently, OATS provides rides to work under a federal transit contract. That contract is expiring in two years, so the donation will help extend the rides.

According to Jack Heusted, OATS Mid-Missouri Regional Director, the additional funding will also help give more rides in general. OATS prioritizes its rides. People who have to go to work or medical appointments get rides first. Then, shopping trips and other activities are alloted.

"With the new funds, we'll be able to extend the operating hours, to add additional days if that's appropriate, just serve more folks," said Heusted.

OATS applied for the grant, and Walmart chose OATS along with other recipients.

"This is a new donation for us, so we're very excited about it," said Yeager.

OATS plans to keep looking for local support to help offset the drop in federal funding.