This summer, Dawn Distler will mark her third anniversary as director of KAT, Knoxville's public transit agency. The system is fortunate to have a city government that supports public transportation, Distler says, but providing that service is costly. KAT must respond to funding, customer requests, public demand and other factors that may shift over time.
The city's bus fleet won't get you to work or school faster than driving yourself, Distler admits. But it helps explain why KAT began offering wifi on buses and trolleys last month. Creating a better experience, Distler says, might convince bus passengers the extra time is well spent. Attracting so-called "choice riders" - people who have vehicles but make a conscious choice to take the bus - may be important in helping KAT lift ridership levels that fell 3.6 percent in 2016.
In a conversation with WUOT All Things Considered host Brandon Hollingsworth, Distler talks about route changes, the debate over funding for public transit and what comes next for KAT as 2017 unfolds.