OTHER GRANTS IN THE REGION
• $5.3 million to the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority for maintenance and renovation at two facilities;
• $1.4 million to the Memphis Area Transit Authority for a midtown connector and traffic signal prioritization on Elvis Presley Boulevard;
• $3.2 million to Huntsville, Ala., Public Transit to build a bus maintenance facility.
Chattanooga has a citywide network of community recreation centers with swimming pools, basketball courts, computer rooms and more.
But all those amenities aren't worth a thing if people can't get there to use them.
So CARTA, the city's transit agency, has been given a $400,000 federal grant to better link bus routes to recreation centers and create safe stops for users.
"Having a bus stop that's a place for our teenagers and adults to have safe travel to our community centers, that's an added value for our users," said Brian Smith, spokesman for the community centers program in Chattanooga's Parks and Recreation Department.
The city is about to open its 17th recreation center, this time in Hixson.
CARTA Executive Director Tom Dugan said plans call for bus stop kiosks near recreation centers to be fitted with lights, security cameras and real-time information on when the next bus will arrive.
"What we want to do is make sure that at every bus stop that serves a recreation center, you have a safe stop," Dugan said.
Some bus routes might be tweaked to place stops closer to the centers, he said.
CARTA is working with the city's Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Intelligent Transportation departments to refine plans and possibly begin putting shelters out in spring, he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder said he hopes the new stops will encourage more people to use a bus to get to the community centers. For instance, he said, youngsters coming to basketball practice might hop a bus rather than use a van.
"The idea is to get a system established that would be very convenient for the kids to use," Zehnder said, while also being one that parents are comfortable with.
"Having these kiosks in a safe area means the parents will feel a whole lot better about the child being out and using public transportation," he said.
The $400,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation and accompanied a $4.1 million grant for bus replacement.
Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...