County bus service helps seniors remain active

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

James Reeves leaned against his swan-necked wooden cane while sunbeams glanced off his eyeglasses.

Outside, the scattered homes and lawns along County Highway 12 whizzed past the bus windows in a green and brown collage.

Reeves said his deteriorated retinas prevent him from driving. Sometimes, his wife drives him. Other times, he catches a ride on ClasTran, Shelby County’s public transit system for rural, elderly and disabled residents.

Three days a week, Reeves enjoys an afternoon bus ride back to his home on Highway 12 from the Alabaster Senior Center.

As a 90-year-old retired cotton mill worker, Reeves said ClasTran enables him to enjoy his friends’ company at the senior center during the week.

&uot;I get out more often because of it,&uot; Reeves said.

Jointly operated between Shelby and Jefferson counties, ClasTran provides Shelby residents transportation all the way into north Jefferson County.

Each day, at least one route delivers passengers from throughout Shelby County to destinations in Birmingham and as far north as Warrior. Other routes carry riders throughout Shelby County.

Unlike some metropolitan transit systems, ClasTran delivers riders directly to their front doors &045; an important feature for some older riders.

ClasTran driver Eddie Arrington said some older residents depend on the system to get to dialysis and other medical appointments, as well as to buy groceries and run daily errands.

In addition to meeting medical needs, ClasTran provides many seniors opportunities to socialize.

&uot;Seniors get so excited about going out, being able to enjoy themselves&uot; Arrington said.

Six drivers operate five separate routes from Shelby County each week, beginning at 5:30 a.m.

In order to schedule a ride, riders must call ClasTran 24 to 48 hours ahead of time. Riders pay $4 fees each way. Some senior riders’ fees are taken care of, thanks to Shelby County Senior Services.

On weekdays, Route 304 delivers riders to and from their homes and the Alabaster Senior Center.

Last Friday afternoon, Doc Moss studied a sheet of music at the back of the Alabaster Senior Center. Moss rides ClasTran to-and-from the Senior Center each week, where he occasionally serenades the crowd with his guitar.

Following a barbecue lunch, a group of about 10 riders slowly made their way down the ramp from the Alabaster Senior Center to the bus, where Arrington helped them in.

Dressed in a powder-blue dress jacket and butterfly collared shirt, Moss nestled against his pillow for the ride back to his home in Helena.

On the Route 304 bus Friday, riders talked about the new Publix while Arrington wheeled the bus into driveways. Arrington has developed friendships with many of his riders.

&uot;How’s your dad doing?&uot; one rider asked Arrington before stepping off.

In between stops, Arrington carefully maneuvered the passenger bus between freshly-laid rows of asphalt and orange-and-white road barricades on Highway 119. Bobcats and Caterpillars shifted piles of Earth on the roadside.

Another Route 304 regular, Evelyn Branham hummed an old gospel tune and wondered if her hair dresser would remember her appointment.

Arrington parked the bus and walked around to the door to help her out.

&uot;Bye everybody,&uot; she said. &uot;Thank you, Eddie.&uot;