Clastran offers low-cost transportation

You’ve probably seen them around.

The brightly-painted mini buses with the butterfly logo, stopped outside the doctor’s office or the local grocery store.

But what you probably don’t know, say officials, is ClasTran has been transporting the elderly, disabled and rural residents of Shelby County for more than a decade.

&uot;It’s a valuable resource to the people of this county. We need to get the word out and let people know this service exists,&uot; said County Community Service Coordinator Reginald Holloway, who also serves on the ClasTran board of directors.

&uot;I know there are some citizens out there who need to know we’re still out there,&uot; he said.

Formerly Central Alabama Paratransit (CAPT), the service that is now ClasTran merged with its Jefferson County counterpart in 1998 to better serve the transportation needs of area residents, said Executive Director Allison Wildman.

For $2, residents can catch a ride anywhere in the county on the ClasTran bus system. Round trip fare is $3.

Because ClasTran is a subscribed service and does not follow a set schedule, rides must be arranged on an individual basis at least three days in advance.

Wildman said the low fares are possible because of two federal grants administered through the Alabama Department of Transportation.

The grants subsidize 80 percent of the cost to transport disabled citizens or those age 60 or older. Trips taken by rural residents are refunded at 50 percent, she said.

And while a majority of ClasTran riders fall into the first category, Wildman and others emphasized the service is available to anyone living in Shelby County, which is classified by federal standards to be entirely rural.

&uot;The majority of Shelby County is still rural,&uot; Holloway said. &uot;I know we think about North Shelby, but the majority of Shelby County really is still rural.&uot;

Fellow board member and Shelby County Planner Todd McDonald agreed and said he predicts ClasTran’s role in rural transportation to grow in prominence, especially considering public transit services such as a proposed light-rail train system are still years away from becoming reality.

But before residents can appreciate ClasTran as an economical and readily available mode of transportation, they first must know that it’s there, McDonald said.

&uot;A lot of people don’t know that it exists, and a lot of that is because it hasn’t been advertised,&uot; he said.

According to statistics compiled by the Birmingham Regional Paratransit Consortium, ClasTran’s 48 buses make a combined average of 1,000 trips every day.

Only 7 percent of those trips are taken in Shelby County, and even those are almost entirely by the elderly and disabled, Wildman said.

&uot;There is a much greater need out there than we’re serving. So, we’re trying to get the word out,&uot; she said.

Hoping to do just that, ClasTran recently underwent an image makeover. Perhaps the most recognizable change is the new butterfly logo adorning the side of the service’s mini buses.

&uot;When I tell people ‘the bus with the butterfly on it,’ they know what I’m talking about now,&uot; Wildman said, laughing.

But that’s not all that’s new. ClasTran recently received a shipment of 24 new passenger buses, all of which are equipped with wheelchair lifts. Nineteen more buses have been ordered to replace the older models currently being used, Wildman said.

Individuals interested in using the ClasTran service should contact the dispatcher at 325-8787