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ECATS is an indispensible service to area

By By ANNA M. LEE Assistant Editor
In April 1995, the Escambia County Commission took over public transportation for the county, and the Escambia County Area Transit System (ECATS) has been serving the transportation needs of residents since.
ECATS, based at the Escambia County Courthouse Annex, started with four vans, and by 2003 their resources had grown to include 12 vans -- 11 15-passenger vans and one 28-passenger van.
Serving Atmore and Brewton, ECATS made 32,250 one-way passenger trips in 2003.
Local passengers use the service to go shopping, to the doctor, to the beauty shop, among other things, Jernigan said.
D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital contributed to the purchase of one of the three handicapped-equipped vans used by ECATS, to help its patrons have better access to the hospital.
The service gives them independence, they don't have to rely on family members for transportation, and it helps them to maintain dignity, she said.
At the end of the year ECATS likes to give back to its riders by taking them on a Christmas tour and then to Jernigan's home for refreshments.
ECATS also runs work routes, taking groups to their place of employment everyday.
The system transports students to Reid State Technical College and Jefferson Davis Community College and on Saturdays they take children to Alabama State University's Southern Normal Campus.
To book an appointment to ride with ECATS, Brewton residents can call the office at 867-0584.
The fee for local pick-ups -- curb to curb service -- is $2 for three stops.
ECATS is federally funded, but the program has to match funds provided by the federal government.
For three years the program has been self-sufficient, requiring no funds from the county. Part of Jernigan's job is to secure funds so that ECATS can continue to serve the county.