KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Area Transit is making some big reductions to its bus service as it struggles to fill open bus operator positions. 

Back in July, the Knoxville Transportation Authority approved the KAT service reductions.

Those with KAT say they are continuing to feel the effects of COVID with the worker shortage. They said they have fewer employees now than they did in the middle of the pandemic.

“We are down about 50 bus operators, and that’s out of 200,” said Belinda Woodiel-Brill, director of Planning and Public Information for KAT.

This is causing them to have to make changes they don’t necessarily want to make.

Ashley Goosie doesn’t have a car and relies on the bus, family or friends to get where she needs to go.

“I’m getting off work this morning, I had a therapy appointment. So I needed a bus, but I didn’t have a ride,” she said.

Goosie was able to catch a ride on a KAT bus today but next time she may have to find a different ride to work.

KAT is trying to hire more employees but until then, they’ve had to reduce their schedule.

Woodiel-Brill explained some of the cuts including, “Shorter services on Sundays, shorter service hours on the weekdays, that evening service tends to tale off a little bit, but we did retain it on our main core routes. So those still run until 11:15 but a lot of the other ones end at a 9:15 or 10:15 trips.”

Although KAT is short-staffed, they’re trying to make sure their riders are able to get to and from work. KAT is partnering with Knox County CAC Transit to provide work-related transportation.

“We are actually covering the cost of the folks who call CAC and say, ‘KAT reduced services, I need to get home from this job at 6:30 on Sunday,'” Woodiel-Brill said.

Passengers are asked to call CAC at least a day ahead of time to check availability.

KAT doesn’t know how long these changes will be in effect but says they are actively working to hire to get their schedules back to normal.

You can call CAC at 865-524-0319.

They said along with work-related transportation, they provide rides for medical, dialysis and essential errand transportation throughout Knox County.

The CAC fares are $2 each way, but they are not charging fares until January 2023.

If you need more information on schedule changes or would like to apply to work for KAT, you can find more information here

CAC said in a statement, that they already partner with KAT and that this has been ongoing for years as they currently provide services on a regular basis to individuals who need transportation outside the KAT service area.

Editor’s Note: The information was updated to correct the number of bus operators.