We don’t envy Neal Davis, whose job includes overseeing the Johnston County Area Transit System.
We say that because Mr. Davis is responsible for the success of an agency whose name implies something it’s not – a public transit service.
Instead, JCATS is a ride service whose primary and preferred fares are clients of various human service agencies. Which is to say JCATS is not like the public transit systems in such cities as New York and Chicago.
Those big-city transit services want as many riders as they can lure, because the more riders they have, the more they can spread their costs around. By contrast, JCATS under Mr. Davis has recently raised fares to discourage all but the neediest of Johnstonians from calling for a ride.
We’re still not sure about the economics of that. JCATS says the average rider costs the agency $15 each way. It seems to us then that more riders would bring that cost down.
But again, JCATS isn’t a public transit system. In Mr. Davis’ words: “The problem we have is Johnston County is a large, rural, non-urbanized community. There aren’t bus stops. There’s no place for people to put bus stops that are within walking distance from home. There are not high-density areas where you can walk a block or two to a bus stop.”
So it’s worth noting that a transit system that’s not a transit system is doing a better job of providing rides to people who think JCATS is what its name implies. As recently as 2014, JCATS denied 1,900 ride requests. This past year, that number fell to 258. Five months into this year, it’s just 80.
Mr. Davis has performed this miracle mostly with a $25,000 check from Johnston County Commissioners, but it’s a miracle nonetheless. And so while we don’t envy Mr. Davis his job, we hope Johnstonians agree that he deserves their thanks for doing it well.