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Improving lives one ride at a time

Southeast Missouri Transportation Service has teamed up with the Missouri Public Transit Association to launch a new campaign titled “Faces of Missouri Transit.”

The goal of the campaign is to show the need for public transit accessibility.

“Public transit goes beyond simply providing transportation services,” SMTS Executive Director Denny Ward says. “It serves as a lifeline for more residents than one might think. During our last fiscal year nearly 302,000 individual rides were provided to citizens of all ages and walks of life throughout the 21 counties we serve. Public transit access creates jobs, stimulates local economies and attracts investment.”

Ward said the current system needs to be expanded to cover more riders in more areas.

SMTS, Inc. currently severs Bollinger, Butler, Crawford, Dent, Howell, Iron, Madison, New Madrid, Oregon, Pemiscot, Perry, Phelps, Reynolds, Shannon, St. Francios, Ste. Genevieve, Stoddard, Texas, Washington and Wayne counties with its hub located in Fredericktown. 

It is the second largest rural transportation provider in the nation, and in October will celebrate its 45th anniversary.

“We provide non-emergency medical transportation on an as-needed basis in an additional five adjacent counties upon request from the funding agency,” Ward said. “Anyone can ride, however, we are not a taxi service. So individuals need to look at our county schedules and plan their appointments around the dates we are available to take them, as different communities are served on different days of the week or month.”

Ward said due to the need SMTS operates on a tight schedule which typically does not allow for much deviation. In addition to local trips, the service also offers transportation to major medical facilities in Springfield, St. Louis, Sikeston, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau.

Local businesses leaders can see the importance of public transportation and support SMTS.

“Medicines only work for the patients who take them, and a common barrier for our patients adhering to their medications is transportation,” owner Jeremy Leach, RPh, of Parkland HealthMart Pharmacy said. “Many take critical blood pressure or blood sugar medications. Without access to public transportation, I fear many patients, especially those who don’t have friends or family close by, would go without these critical medicines.”

“New Era Bank is very happy to be associated with SMTS by serving as a pick-up and drop-off location for riders,” New Era Bank Vice President Kent Marler said. “I see SMTS in action every day and realize how fortunate riders are, and it benefits the community. I firmly believe that a large segment of our rural society would be at a severe disadvantage without this type of transportation. Beyond the necessity of transportation that is provided, the service creates commerce within our community. Healthcare, retail, financial services and many other businesses inadvertently benefit by spending that is derivative of the mobility created by SMTS for many of our (otherwise) home-bound citizens.”

“SMTS allows us to continue to provide medical care for our local residents in their rural hometown,” Lisa Twidwell, administrator/CEO of Madison Medical Center, said. “Without this type of quality transportation we would not be able to care for them close to home, nor continue to provide them travel accommodations when needed for specialist care or family matters.”

Ward said funding cuts have devastated the SMTS budget, making it harder to keep dependable, reliable, clean and safe vehicles on the roads and if another cut was to occur a reduction in services plus a rate increase would be eminent. 

“So many things hinge on available transportation,” Ward said. “If I took your car and keys away, and told you to make sure you follow up with your doctor or not to forget about your dentist appointment, or that you needed to pick up groceries or your medication or get to work, and you have no family available to you and your friends were in the same position in life due to their age, health or economic standing, what would you do?

“There isn’t a day or week that passes that someone somewhere doesn’t send a beautiful handwritten note, or place a phone call to say that they just don’t know what they would have done, or would do, without the service being provided by SMTS.”

Ward said this is the reason to continue pushing for funding to meet the needs of the communities.

“Many of those we serve have lived productive lives, contributed to society and now need society to care for them,” Ward said. “It’s the least we can do.”

SMTS Director of Operations Ginny Smith said her passion is simply to help others and, through SMTS, she can do that.

“Every day our drivers, our services, our mission helps a human being,” Smith said. “Maybe that is transportation to a medical appointment, to a grocery store, to employment opportunities or out to lunch after being home by their self for the last five days. Our service allows anyone access to those times and I get to be a part of that every day by looking for ways to better improve our service or spread the word to those who may not have heard how SMTS can help them.”

Smith said the entire staff at SMTS believes in the mission to improve the quality of life of people through assisting their access to goods of society.

Ward said SMTS staff drove more than 3.5 million miles last fiscal year with approximately 200 vehicles in its fleet. The need is there and he is asking for awareness of the need and support of local funding. 

For more information on ride schedules and how to utilize the service visit www.ridesmts.org, or find SMTS on facebook. 

SMTS has launched its new campaign

SMTS has launched its new campaign “Faces of Missouri Transit” to show the human aspect of the services they provide.

SMTS currently serves 21 counties, providing rides to citizens of all ages and walks of life.

SMTS currently serves 21 counties, providing rides to citizens of all ages and walks of life.

SMTS sees the need and looks to the future with hopes to expand and offer services to more members of the community.

SMTS sees the need and looks to the future with hopes to expand and offer services to more members of the community.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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