Starting in July 2018, OATS Transit will add another route to its system that will operate in the Lake of the Ozarks area. The Columbia based transit system, which was granted a $44,009 request by Senate-Bill 40 board to expand lines in the lake area in May 2017, will operate under the name Tri-County Transit. It will offer service to all who need a ride, not based on income or being disabled. 

This service will run under a deviated system, allowing the buses to travel up to two miles from bus stop and making it possible to pick up those who cannot readily access these areas. OATS currently partners with CCDDR to provide sheltered workshop employees with transportation to and from work, a program that was initiated by the task force and has actually saved taxpayer money, according to Executive Director Ed Thomas.

Lake of the Ozarks Transportation Council, formed in April 2016, was assembled to address transportation barriers in the area. Ed Thomas, Director of the Camden County Developmental Disabilities Resource Board, helped to spearhead this initiative in the lake area. 

"If we can remove some barriers and make it easy in a public transportation system for people to be able to access it, then we can probably eliminate a lot of the hardships experienced by households and families, and also employers," Thomas said.

The new service will see new routes throughout 18 communities within Miller, Morgan, and Camden counties. Two buses will run 10 hours a day covering a 125-mile loop. 

“Affordable, accessible, efficient and safe public transit can be a great connector between education, employment, housing, child care, medical care, and services that will improve individual’s quality of life” said Jack Heusted, OATS Transit Regional Director. Heusted will oversee this new route as part of his existing 18-county operations. 

In 2017, a total of 596 surveys were submitted in regards to current transportation needs. A total of 21 percent of respondents said they needed transportation, with the biggest reasons cited as medical and grocery/food pantry visits. 28 percent of respondents said they need daily transportation help, 34 percent said they would use a public transportation system regularly. Starting in July, individuals can call OATS Transit Camdenton office to schedule a ride on this new route by calling 833-582-4960.