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Public buses arrive in city
Bus from side.jpg
The local buses are painted with pictures unique to McMinnville, such as the Park Theater and Court Square fountain. Regular bus fare is $1.
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Johnny Gibbs will be driving one of two UCHRA buses that follow a fixed route around the city starting Monday. The buses can hold 16 passengers and two wheelchairs.

The wheels on the bus will be going round and round in McMinnville.

Two UCHRA buses will begin running a set bus route in the city on Monday with bus service to be provided six days a week.

The price for bus fare is $1 per trip. It’s half price for disabled residents and seniors over age 60.

“Once people see we have this route and notice that a bus passes by their house at the same time every day, I think people are really going to utilize this service,” said McMinnville Mayor Ben Newman.

Added County Executive Jimmy Haley, “It’s really going to be valuable because we have so many low-income residents who would be homebound without UCARTS.”

An existing UCARTS program allows local residents to call and obtain a ride, but that call must be made 24 hours in advance.

The program that begins this week is different because there are two buses which run an established route. There will be bus stops stationed around the city where people can wait for the bus to arrive, or they can hail the bus as it’s driving down the road.

“McMinnville is growing and the demand for this type of transportation is here,” said Rebecca Harris, the deputy director of UCHRA, which serves a 14-county area.

Harris said based on the existing UCARTS program, McMinnville is second only to Cookeville for number of annual bus runs. She said it amounts to around 35,000 rides a year.

Harris said the buses will run what’s called a deviated fixed route. That means they will have a regular route but be allowed to travel up to three-quarters of a mile off that route as demand dictates.

Harris said the roughly one-hour bus loop will include stops at places like Beersheba Towers, McMinnville Housing Authority, Three Star Mall and Walmart. She said transportation officials have learned it’s important to be flexible initially as the route will likely change somewhat based on need.

To encourage ridership, this Tuesday, Sept. 10, will be free fare day. Residents can ride a UCHRA bus as often as they like on Tuesday at no charge.

As the route begins to take shape, bus stop signs will be placed around the city in the coming weeks to inform residents where they can wait. 

Newman, an attorney, said he knows through court cases that many people have lost their driver’s license due to legal action. He said the bus route makes a whole new avenue of transportation available.

“Some people may find they can take a bus to and from work,” said Newman.

UCHRA has an annual $6 million transportation budget that’s spread throughout its 14-county area. 

Harris said the estimated annual cost for two buses to run in McMinnville is $300,000.

For regular bus riders, a one-day pass can be purchased for $3 that provides unlimited rides during that day. A monthly pass can be purchased for $25 that offers 30 rides.

For more information, call 473-6652.