Statistics & News
FCTA Dispatcher Allyson Brooks is currently working from the Mayfield office rather than the Fulton one to keep Drivers "coming and going your way."
Order leads to operation changes
“Business as usual” continues at Fulton County Transit Authority although the operations of the business will look a bit different for the next few weeks.
On Monday, FCTA Dispatchers moved to the Mayfield office to keep Drivers “coming and going your way.” Technology added to that office will allow the Dispatchers to keep in close contact with the Fulton office as well as the Transit Drivers.
FCTA Call Takers remain at work in the Fulton office along with a handful of other employees. Several other staff members are currently working from their residences.
“Overall, we had a good first day,” FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton said. “We had some normal first day at doing something hiccups and some things we need to make it better. All the hiccups were handled. We need to purchase a couple of things to make it better.”
These changes in the FCTA work environment are the results of Executive Order 2020-968 issued by Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday, November 18. The mandate began at 5 p.m. Friday, November 20, and is slated to end at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, December 13.
According to a press release, following a record 33 deaths announced last Tuesday Gov. Andy Beshear issued new restrictions designed to help stop the rampant spread of COVID-19 and save Kentuckians’ lives while keeping the economy open.
“Since March 6 – the day Kentucky had its first confirmed case – we have been under attack and at war with the coronavirus. It has upended our routines, damaged our economy, threatened our children’s education and taken far too many lives,” Beshear said. “Now, it is time for Kentucky’s third counterattack on the coronavirus. Let me be clear about a few things. This is not, and will not be, a shutdown. Our economy is open, and there will be no closings based on essential or nonessential services. But today we are announcing significant, but surgical and targeted steps designed to slow the spread of the virus and protect our people.”
The portion of Beshear’s order that directly affects FCTA states all professional services and other office-based businesses must mandate that all employees who are able to work from home do so and close their business to the public when possible. Any office that remains open must ensure that no more than 33% of employees are physically present in the office any given day.
Etherton and other members of the FCTA Leadership Team determined a game plan for the agency to comply with Beshear’s mandate.
“We will do our best to serve our clients in a timely manner, but there could be some sort of delay,” Etherton explained in a press release issued Friday. “We will monitor and adjust as needed to minimize delays.”
Etherton is especially proud of the FCTA employees’ abilities to adjust to changes so quickly.
“All of the FCTA staff has done an exceptional job of adapting and overcoming the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Etherton said. “I am proud of #TeamTransit for taking on the everyday changes we encounter during the pandemic. FCTA also has a very supportive and committed Board of Directors to provide the very best service to our clients.
The Executive Director was quick to recognize the clients’ patience and understanding with all the changes of late.
“I also would be very remiss if I did not say thanks to our ridership,” Etherton added. “The FCTA ridership has taken all of the changes in stride and is also very supportive of the changes we have had to make for the safety of the staff and ridership. We have a great team serving our four counties in West Kentucky, and I am proud of each and every one of them every day.”
The front lobby of the FCTA building at Fulton will be closed to the public through December 13 as well. Those needing to purchase a Miller Transportation bus ticket for an out of the area destination will be able to still do that from FCTA.
“There will be a number to call posted on the lobby door and FCTA staff will assist you,” Etherton explained.
Fulton County Transit Authority proudly serves Fulton, Hickman, Graves, and Carlisle counties.
FCTA Call Taker Rex Valentine (above) takes information from a client while still working in the Fulton office. IT Assistant Ryan Henderson keeps an eye on the Dispatch manifest while working from the Mayfield office.
Demand Response hours reduced
Another operational change is coming soon to Fulton County Transit Authority as the agency will reduce its Demand Response service hours.
Beginning Thursday, December 3, Demand Response service hours will move to 7 a.m. until 4 p.m Monday through Friday.
“We will continue to pick up the ones on the schedule who are going to work and are on the standing orders,” said FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton. “The reduction in hours is due to FCTA not having sufficient staff to cover the hours of DR service and the reduction in seat capacity in our vehicles.”
According to Etherton, medical trips, life sustaining trips and Medicaid trips will not be impacted by the changes in service hours. Saturday Holiday Shopping, which is slated to begin this Saturday, will not be affected either as those Demand Response trips are on a limited basis for a designated period of time.
FCTA proudly serves Fulton, Hickman, Graves, and Carlisle counties.
Pass helps employees, employers
Workforce members in the four counties served by Fulton County Transit Authority have an alternative way to get to work. Called a “Ride to Work Pass,” FCTA has been offering the program since April 1, 2019.
“The idea came from Mr. Kenney (Etherton, FCTA Executive Director),” explained FCTA Operations Manager Joy Johnson. “He had been working with several industries in helping get employees to and from work.”
The program is only available in the county in which the worker resides. In other words, a worker in one county cannot use the pass to get to their job in another county.
“If you live in Fulton County the cost of your monthly transportation from your residence to work and from work back to home would be $80 per month,” Johnson said. “In Carlisle, Hickman and Graves counties, it would cost you $100 per month.
Individuals may purchase a pass each month, Johnson said, or companies may purchase them for their employees.
“You can obtain them by calling FCTA at 270-472-0662 Extension 3 and talking with our billing clerk, or by stopping by our main office at 302 Eastwood Drive in Fulton,” Johnson added.
There are two ways a worker can set up the Ride To Work rides once the pass is purchased.
Trips that aren’t scheduled ahead of time – called Demand Response by FCTA – may be phoned in to FCTA’s Dispatch team daily by dialing 270-472-0662 Extension 1 and asking for a pickup each time the worker needs a ride. These should be done shortly after 6 a.m. on the morning the worker needs a ride to allow as much time for FCTA to get a driver there as close to work time as possible.
The best way to ensure a daily pickup on time – especially if the worker’s schedule remains the same – is to call 270-472-0662 Extension 2 to speak with a FCTA Scheduler. At that time, the Scheduler will set the worker up on what FCTA calls a Standing Order Trip. This will keep the worker on a revolving time frame and keeps them from having to call in every day to set up a ride
Benefits of the Ride to Work Pass program, according to Johnson, is cost efficient, safe, and reliable transportation for area workers.
“I really do think this is one of our better programs,” Johnson added. “It has really been beneficial to the surrounding communities. When you think about the cost of a vehicle, cost of fuel, cost of insurance, and what it takes to keep a vehicle on the road, it really is the best way to go to work.”
Kayser Automotive Systems, a Fulton industry, has incorporated the FCTA Ride to Work Pass into its benefits package.
“One thing that Kayser finds a lot is local employees with transportation issues,” explained Chris Pane, Kayser’s Human Resources Manager. “We have a point system so it’s critical that they get to work and get to work on time.”
According to Pane, when FCTA started the Ride to Work program, Kayser became interested in it to have a reliable system to help their employees with transportation to and from work when needed.
“We have an avenue to provide transportation now where we couldn’t go out and pick them up ourselves,” Pane said. “We purchase the passes and give them out to employees whether it’s for a short time or daily. We have about six employees who rely on it. The passes are part of the benefits we offer.”
Employees who have vehicle issues and can’t get themselves to work prior to their shift on any given weekday now have an alternative way, according to Pane, to get there by using a Ride To Work Pass. This, too, alleviates absenteeism at the industry and helps the employee to keep their point system intact.
Transit awarded two grants
Two grants totaling almost half a million dollars will improve operations at Fulton County Transit Authority immensely.
FCTA received a $248,000 5339 Capital Grant for FY 21-22 to replace four cutaway 12/2 passenger vehicles.
“Replacing the four vehicles definitely helps keep our fleet operational,” explained FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton when announcing the grants.
“We need to replace three to five cutaways a year to keep a healthy fleet,” Etherton added.
The new vehicles will be utilized in Fulton, Hickman, Graves and Carlisle counties, the areas where FCTA primarily and proudly serves.
The 5339 Capital Grant is 80% federally funded. Etherton stated that will the dissolution of the toll credit program, FCTA will have to produce 20% of the grant monies.
Gov. Andy Beshear recently announced the other funds awarded to FCTA through the CARES Act.
“We’re excited about the Governor’s announcement of $198,150 under capital funding in the CARES Act,” Etherton said. “This funding will update FCTA’s technology which will include a server, tablets and replacement of a 30- year-old phone system.”
In addition to enhancing communication between the FCTA base and all Transit vehicles in the field, the tablets will push out training programs for better social distancing. Etherton also said the new phone system will finally tie all of the three FCTA offices together.
“All of the new technology not only improves our operations during COVID-19 and similar events, but will allow employees to work from home easier and better during inclement weather times. Especially the scheduling department to prevent them from having to get out and risk their lives coming to the office,” Etherton said.
With the new server, Etherton said that will allow FCTA to do away with several pieces of equipment and envelope it all into one unit. Providing the electronic tablets to FCTA drivers will give them access to information more quickly and efficiently and do away with reams and reams of paperwork they receive on a daily basis.
According to Etherton, FCTA leaders have learned during COVID-19 the importance of being able to work from home and found some of the weaknesses within the agency’s operations to improve upon.
“This money not only allows us to fix our operational weaknesses, it helps us to be better at what we do overall,” Etherton said.
Other funds within the CARES Act award will allow FCTA to better protect office staff in replacing and improving air changing units, replacing old carpeted with newer vinyl and tile flooring.
SATURDAY SHOPPING - One of the biggest holiday traditions at Fulton County Transit Authority is right around the corner: Saturday Holiday Shopping 2020. FCTA will offer Saturday Shopping from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday throughout the holiday season. Those dates include November 28, December 5, December 12, December 19, December 26, and January 2.
Standard Demand Response Rates will apply per county of service. To obtain a ride, call 270-472-0662 Extension 1 on the Saturday you wish to go shopping and we will get you “Coming & Going your Way.”
FCTA will follow CDC guidelines during Saturday Holiday Shopping that will include all passengers wearing masks and a limited number of passengers per vehicle. These guidelines are put into place to protect you and the FCTA staff.
Fulton County Transit Authority – Proudly serving Fulton, Hickman, Graves, and Carlisle counties. #TeamTransit.
Please wear masks
FCTA RESPECTFULLY REQUESTS all riders of any FCTA vehicle to have a mask or facial covering on before boarding any FCTA vehicle.
This is for the safety of yourself, other riders, and FCTA staff and to comply with the Executive Order of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Breaking mandate monotony
Driver provides humor during pandemic
One Fulton County Transit Authority driver is taking the COVID-19 mandates at work seriously while having a little fun with one of them in the process.
Jo Ann Smith Gardiner uses the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided by FCTA for her job, but Gardiner has chosen some unusual masks to protect her while driving one of the agency’s vehicles.
“With these mask mandates, all I hear out there is how we have lost our freedom because they make us wear them,” Gardiner said. “Everywhere you look, you see the blue or the handmade masks on people who follow the guidelines. We were out here looking alike in our masks, most were complaining, and nobody was laughing anymore.”
That’s when Gardiner decided to take matters into her own hands, well, face rather.
“One day I was on down time waiting on a client to finish with their appointment. I went in 5 Star (Food Mart) in Paducah and there, by the door, was this made-up, puckered lips mask. It was just calling out to me, so I bought it and put it on. Everyone I came in contact with really laughed and commented on that mask,” Gardiner explained. “I then posted it on Facebook and got even more comments. Not once did I hear ‘they are taking our freedoms.’ All I was hearing was laughter and good comments.”
Because of these reactions, Gardiner returned to the convenience store on another run to Paducah and purchased even more of the funny masks.
“I’ve been trying to wear a different one every day, posting my face all over Facebook, and having fun with the clients and everybody in the places I go in to,” Gardiner said. “I’ve not had one bad comment, but lots of laughs.”
Quickly admitting she isn’t making fun of the “horrible pandemic” in America, Gardiner says she’s just having a little fun within the process of it all.
“Laughter makes a bad situation a little easier to tolerate,” Gardiner explained.
Gardiner, who will mark her second anniversary at FCTA in October, said her coworkers have been supportive of her personal project.
“I’ve had them ask, ‘What kind of mask are we going to wear today?’ I tell them to stay tuned because I have plenty of them,” Gardiner said. “I have some of the best coworkers and their laughter makes it even more fun wearing the masks.”
Other motorists along the roadways where Gardiner carries clients “going and coming” their way have noticed her various masks as well.
“I’ve been getting lots of horn blows and waves so, all in all, it’s been great,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner has no plan to return to a plain mask anytime soon.
“I hope I don’t ever go back to just the plain mask,” Gardiner said. “I hope that as long as this mandate lasts, I will have enough masks.”
Although she’s not seeking mask donations, Gardiner said if any talented local artists want to create some unusual ones to add to her collection, though, she will gladly wear them.
So, what happens when wearing masks is no longer part of Gardiner’s workday?
“As much fun as we have been having, I may even miss my masks when they lift the mandate and I have to go back to no face clothing,” Gardiner said, laughing. “When they have to see my bare face again that could get boring because my face stays the same old face.”
Until then, Gardiner says to stay tuned and keep watching for new masks as she gets ready to roll every day.
FCTA Operations Manager Joy Johnson is one of the people enjoying Gardiner’s mask project.
“I love that Jo Ann has turned this pandemic into something positive,” Johnson said. “It is very refreshing to see how she’s spreading kindness and joy. I must admit I, too, tune in for the mask of the day! #teamtransit”
Amtrak will design, build local station
“I can literally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” exclaimed Kenney Etherton after receiving word that a long-awaited community project is finally coming into fruition.
Several years ago, the Fulton County Transit Authority Executive Director took over leadership for the local efforts to construct a new Amtrak station to replace the current one that needed too many repairs. Now the project is becoming a reality.
“We are excited that we are working on an agreement with Amtrak to design and construct a new station,” Etherton revealed. “Amtrak will be bearing the costs of design and construction of the station at its current location”
Fulton City Manager Mike Gunn knows a partnership of any kind with Amtrak is a positive for the area.
“Whether it’s a new station or enhanced services, we are truly proud to have been a part of this project with Amtrak to raise the bar for rail traveling visitors to the City of Fulton,” Gunn said. “This station enhancement will be something that improves their customers’ experiences and should bring in traveling visitors to our community which helps drive the region’s economy.”
Etherton also believes the new station will make an invaluable impact on the community.
“It will be, without a doubt, a much-needed improvement in our community and make it a more attractive place for people to get off the train in Fulton,” Etherton added.
Jeff Campbell, a Fulton native and owner of The Meadows Hotel, has worked on the project and is thrilled it will soon be heading toward the construction stage.
“I am so very pleased to welcome the news that Amtrak has committed to enter into an agreement to build a new passenger train station in Fulton,” Campbell said. “Funding and architectural plans are scheduled for 2021 with construction targeting in 2022.”
Since one of the local fundraisers for the new station involved a permanent structure at the site, Etherton said he has requested that a space be made for the engraved bricks that display names of former and retired IC, CN and Amtrak employees.
“We have asked Amtrak that, in the design phase, space is set aside for the engraved bricks,” Etherton explained. “Amtrak has asked us to use local funds that were donated for signage for station and beautification, lighting, and landscaping.”
Campbell recognized those supporting the station efforts who remained on target to achieve the goal.
“My congratulations to Kenney Etherton and the Fulton County Transit team for their persistence in pushing this to completion after a four-year journey too long,” said Campbell. “All local funds raised, along with the memorial bricks, will be incorporated into the project.”
According to Etherton, tenacity was the key for this project.
“It has been, without a doubt, one of the most frustrating projects I’ve ever worked on,” he explained. “Patience and diligence have prevailed.”
TEAMWORK - This graphic, provided by Purchase Area Regional Transit, offers various statistics and testimonials from Murray-Calloway County Transit, Paducah Area Transit System and Fulton County Transit Authority. Read the graphic carefully to learn more about each agency and how they work together to provide transportation for those in the Purchase Area.