KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – Bus passengers in Kingsport will soon have a new facility to call home.
A 7,000 square foot, multi-million dollar transportation center is on its way to Downtown Kingsport to help serve Kingsport Area Transit Services’ growing ridership.
The past year over 175,000 passengers hitched a ride on KATS and that’s an increase of more than 30,000 passengers in the past five years. A new facility set to break ground next summer plans for more space for customers and employees as they continue to grow.
“This has been a long time in the making,” Chris McCartt, Assistant City Manager of Administration said.
Public transportation first came to Kingsport in the mid 1990’s and now city officials have the opportunity for growth.
“We really grew from 100 riders a year to now we are pushing 200,000 riders a year,” Jeff Fleming, City Manager said.
The new KATS or Kingsport Area Transit Service center will hug the intersection of Main St. and Sullivan St allowing for increased routes, a state of the art dispatch center, a customer waiting area and more.
“Heavy emphasis towards our customer, you know, we want to make sure the lobby and the waiting room is nice and we want to make sure that there ability to interact with folks to help them understand more about transit is there,” McCartt said.
Breaking down the numbers, city officials estimate a $5.15 million cost, 90% comes from grants and the remaining $500,000 from property taxes.
City manager, Jeff Fleming crunched the numbers some more and that’s a $29 investment per passenger with the over 175,000 riders this year.
“It’s worth the investment right now because it’s a long term horizon that you’re really evaluating,” Fleming said.
Kaleb King has been riding KATS for over a year and enjoys some perks.
“I like that students ride for free, very effective form of transportation,” King said.
Fleming said it’s an investment into the future.
“Having this in place, is going to give cities an edge in the future in making sure it’s a place you can live for a lifetime,” Fleming said.
Right now you pay $15 for an unlimited pass and just $1 for a regular fare. City leaders tell News Channel 11 they don’t plan to raise those fares any higher.
Phase one of the project should be complete by early 2019. Phase two will include a garage for KATS buses and its part of their five year plan.