A transportation system that started a movement to provide bus service in rural Missouri is celebrating its 40th anniversary next month. Rural Missourians without means of transportation had trouble getting to town for their medical needs, shopping, or social events before 1971 when the Older Adults Transportation Service began operations.. But “Don’t, please, refer to it as Older Adults Transportation,” says Executive Director Linda Yeager, who says the service has grown far beyond its original purpose and its original name. It no longer is a bus system for older adults only and has not been for 33 of its forty years.  “Anywhere we have a vehicle operating, anyone whose needs can be met by our schedule can ride the vehicle,” she explains.
It’s just OATS, Incorporated now, an organization with an acronym but not a name.  OATS operates in 87 counties.  A similar organization, founded as the Southeast Missouri Transportation System in 1980, also goes by an acronym, SMTS, today. It serves 21 counties.  The six remaining urban counties have public transportation systems.
Yeager says the purpose of OATS has broadened considerably in forty years. But she says it’s still “emphatically” for seniors because they’re the folks with the greatest need, especially in these days of $4 a gallon gasoline. 
OATS plans a big celebration in Columbia on September 28.

Listen to interview with Linda Yeager 9:13 mp3