Supporters of the Franklin Transit Authority gathered Thursday at its main hub, headquarters, on Columbia Avenue for fellowship, free ice cream and free rides all day.
Vivian Johnson-Leach, a driver for five years with FTA, hopped out of her trolley for a short jaunt to the Bradley’s Creamery food truck for a free ice cream cone. She said she enjoys working in the service industry in Franklin as part of the FTA.
“I like knowing I am doing a service to help people,” she said, explaining that the familiar faces she sees everyday are like family.
“We drive senior citizens to their doctor’s appointments, those who might not have family close by. They get used to seeing us every day. Some ride just to socialize a bit. They know us by name and we know them by name.
“I have one frequent elderly rider, Miss Mary, who will always bring me a cold drink. I have seen more young people, students, riding lately, too. I get to meet a lot of people."
She also said out-of-towners vacationing in Franklin like to use the transit system, as well.
“I see people from all over; they get excited about our system,” she said.
Johnson-Leach grew up in Franklin and is glad to work and raise a family “at home.”
“I love this town. This is home," she said.
However, she said she witnesses every day the growth of Franklin in people and extra cars on the road.
“Once the infrastructure catches up to growth, it will be fabulous,” she said. “There is a lot of congestion, especially during business hours, but our riders don’t seem to mind much. They like getting a ride. ”
FTA started with just three trolleys, or ADA-compliant vehicles, on its fixed routes, but has grown to a fleet of 13 today and has added other services such as Transportation on Demand (TODD), in which customers can call ahead for curbside service to a destination. FTA also added 100 stops to its fixed route trolley service and cut the travel time in half on routes.
Stanton Higgs, Transportation Demand Management (TMA) business development and operations manager, stopped by to join in the celebration at the FTA headquarters. Higgs said he believes the FTA service is the result of forward-thinking individuals who knew that exponential growth would eventually hit Franklin.
“That Franklin, 15 years ago, made the decision to add this system into its infrastructure was pretty visionary for a small town,” Higgs said.
“Recently expanding its footprint to Cool Springs and adding more stops will make meeting transit needs easier in the future. Also, if they had tried to do this now, it would be more difficult to fund transit in today’s more competitive market.”
TMA Director Debbie Henry said she is happy to see the service thriving and growing to touch more people and make residents’ lives simpler.
“Today is a special day," she said. "It is a culmination of 15 years of a wonderful partnership with stakeholders and FTA and TMA in Franklin.”
For more information, visit www.tmagroup.org.