EARLY— Four area women had their voices heard Thursday, and changes resulting from Thursday’s Cars and Rural Rides Public Roundtable.

With branches more than 10 counties in central Texas, CARR sought public input in order to streamline its policies and procedures with the needs of its clients and the primary concern among those that attended was arriving to appointments in a timely fashion and creation of additional shifts to serve clients with night jobs.

“This is the first meeting we’ve had. We have three more meetings scheduled next week,” CARR General Manager J.R. Salazar said. “The primary concern we have is the wait time. If you have a 10 a.m. appointment, we can get you there at 9 a.m. because we have other people to pick up. That is one of the main concerns and the other is not having evening service … This is the biggest city we serve. We usually start with Brownwood and Early because they are the biggest cities.”

Self-described longtime CARR user Josephine DeVoll said she felt satisfied with local CARR service overall, but after a few run-ins with bad weather asked if drivers and dispatcher could better coordinate so she does not have to wait more than an hour for her appointment after being dropped off.

“There is no where to sit, no where to be out of the weather. I’m standing on my walker and getting sicker and sicker while waiting,” DeVoll said. “It’s happened twice to me in recent months. One day it was pouring rain and I got absolutely soaked. There was no where for me to go.”

Many of the issues raised Thursday CARR already had policies in place to prevent. In regards to DeVoll’s issues with arriving too early, Salazar said CARR has a policy in place to prevent clients from being stranded in the elements for more than an hour. In the case of Lisa Hoffer, who reported drivers exceeding the speed limit — and maneuvering corners and speed bumps at excessive speeds, Salazar asked any CARR client to immediately inform them at (800) 710-2277 so they can begin an investigation.

“Make sure you know the date and time so we can find it in our system. We can go back and track the trip and how fast the driver was going,” Salazar said. “Don’t feel like you’re being a burden or telling on someone because the safety of you, or a newborn child, is president to us and we want to make sure we’re being safe … We have surveillance in just about all of the buses with have. We may not have it in some of our small cars, but we have it in the buses and we’re able to go back, retrieve data and see what’s going on with that.”

Lisa Caldwell with ARK, which serves area victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, said her organization struggles to their clients rides to their places of employment with many of them working nightshifts. Another concern is long-distance travel with many clients seeking to relocate and must purchase bus tickets from a station in Abilene. Salazar said CARR offers trips to Abilene every Thursday, estimating the cost at $19, and said he is working with state legislators in order to secure funding for third-shift drivers. He also bandied the idea of creating a phone application to allow clients to text dispatchers for a driver’s position in relation to the client’s location, but has no immediate plans in place at this time.

 “It’s really beneficial to get the public’s input. To be honest, we’re probably behind on having these because we’re so tied up with do the operations and providing trips, vehicle breakdowns and all of the things we focus on. The input from the public is critical. It’s good to have the input, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to change everything … We’re a lot bigger than a lot of people know and we’re going to take this information and make the best decisions that we can.”