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ECAT Aims For Better Service With Upgrades

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Escambia County Area Transit
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  Riders on Escambia County Area Transit will notice some changes, both on the road and at the main terminal. The system updates are aimed at improving experiences for current and future customers.

Among the new amenities are LED kiosks, similar to what are in hotels and airports. Three of them have been installed at the Rosa Parks Terminal on Fairfield Drive. ECAT Marketing Director Tonya Ellis says they’re an eye-catching way to distribute information to both riders and ECAT employees.

“It’s a touch screen and they can find out information about our routes, our services and our tickets,” said Ellis. “We have an additional kiosk inside our operators’ break room, and we have one in our reception area that provides information about detours, service changes and upcoming events.”

The kiosks were funded through a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, and are part of ECAT’s re-vamping of marketing and other systems, including a new-look website. Add to that seven new buses to the existing, albeit, aging fleet.

“They’re the new white buses which are more energy-efficient with additional technology upgrades,” said Ellis. “Previously we have had vehicles as old as 1996’s. And when you have buses of that age being constantly on the road, we are glad we were able to upgrade our system. We’re looking to upgrading more.”

Along with the buses, a number of smaller vehicles are being put on the road, to run on some of the smaller routes. The vehicles – step number one in ECAT’s plan to replace the entire fleet in the next few years -- were acquired through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration. Their drivers and maintenance crews have been spending time getting acquainted with them.

It wasn’t that long ago when ECAT was struggling, and its future in question amid a change in ownership, disputes with the local Transit Workers Union, a controversial change in routes, and a lack of service in the northern part of Escambia County. But Ellis feels the agency is turning the corner.

“We want to make sure that the public sees that these are some of the changes and upgrades that we are making, for ECAT and for the community, to make this a better transit system for everyone,” Ellis said.

One major part of those new, good times for ECAT is a stable funding source. The Escambia County Commission approved a four-cent per gallon gas tax in 2012, and it took effect last January. It’s expected to raise about $4 million annually.

More information about Escambia County Area Transit is available at goecat.com.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.