A necessary service

By Vicki Hyatt | Mar 20, 2017
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Irene Noys said she likely wouldn't be able to have a job at Dairy Queen if it wasn't for Haywood Public Transit.

CANTON — In many rural communities, public transportation is hard to find.

The small population base, along with vast distances to central business districts or medical complexes, makes it expensive to run regular routes and schedules.

Haywood Public Transit has found a way to fill many of the transportation voids, however, through its demand-response service.

Individuals such as Irene Noys, said she wouldn't be able to hold a job without the service provided by Haywood Public Transit.

Noys grew up in large cities where there were multiple types of public transportation — buses, trains and taxis — that filled in. But when she and her sister moved to Canton in 2000, she found an entirely different situation.

"I never learned to drive," Noys said, "and I would have to ask my family or friends to take me places. After a while they get tired of that, and then I found out about Haywood Public Transit."

Noys lives on Newfound Street and works at the Dairy Queen on Champion Drive, which would be a 2.5 mile walk.

"I'm going to be 63 this year, and that's a long way to walk if you aren't a walker, which I'm not," she said.

She is on a schedule where Haywood Public Transit picks her up each morning around 9 a.m. and arrives to take her home between 3:30 and 4 p.m. There is another worker who works a similar shift at McDonald's on Champion Drive, so they are often on the same van.

"It's just $2 per ride," Noys said. "I don't mind $2."

On days she needs to go to the credit union, it is an additional $2 for the stop. The same is true if she wants to travel to Wal-Mart or just spend the day shopping or going to lunch in downtown Waynesville.

There are times riders have to wait, but that doesn't bother Noys, either.

"Without Haywood Public Transit, I probably wouldn't have a job," she said.

Canton resident Alissa Holmes has nothing but praise for Haywood Public Transit and its employees.

"They have helped me greatly in getting to medical appointments and a once a week trip to Wal-Mart," said Holmes, who is legally blind and uses a wheelchair. "The drivers have been great to me, but there is a huge need for more transportation, especially for people who are visually impaired or who have other disabilities."

Getting transportation for medical trips is never a problem, but Haywood Public Transit clients are currently limited to one personal trip a week.

"There are times I’ve needed to go to the bank but my need for groceries had to come first," Holmes said. "There are other times there's so much going on in my life that I just need to get out of the house."

Holmes described a particularly scary incident several weeks back when a transit driver was dropping her off and noticed an individual who had arrived in a taxi waiting to get into her door.

"John tried to block him but couldn't," Holmes said. "It was a scary situation. He called 9-1-1 for me."

The incident has led to a need for a trip to both the Haywood County Sheriff's Office and the Canton Police Department, ones that wouldn't be covered under the one trip a week policy. But Holmes said the dispatch office has been very understanding and has helped her cope with a bad situation by arranging for additional trips.

The saga isn't yet over as there will be future trips to court, she added.

On grocery store trips, riders can only load four bags into the vans.

"Four cloth bags don't hold a lot," she said. "If you have a gallon of milk or a case of soda, that counts as a bag and limits what we can buy."

Holmes was highly complimentary of the service and the staff at Haywood Public Transit.

"Both the drivers and dispatchers really care about us," she said. "Sometimes the driver helps me load the bags, and the dispatchers really have a hard job. There are times I've seen people get on to the dispatchers, but they don’t realize how many problems they have scheduling people all over the county. They've been very good to me."