Chickasaw Nation Road to Work Program Reflects Economic Growth in South Okla.
ADA, Okla. — South-central Oklahoma has experienced tremendous economic growth. The opening of the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Artesian Hotel and Casino, the Chickasaw Retreat and Conference Center, as well as numerous other endeavors, has provided thousands of jobs within the Chickasaw Nation.
The Chickasaw Nation introduced a “Park and Ride” service in Ada, Tishomingo, and Sulphur to offer employees an alternative to personal transportation. The service provides a low-cost, reliable and safe way for staff to get to and from work.
Shuttle fare is $1 one-way for Chickasaw citizens and $2 one-way for non-Chickasaws.
Transportation services continue to grow to meet the increasing need. In May 2019 the Chickasaw Nation completed a state-of-the-art transportation facility after providing 43,000 rides to worksites, job interviews and medical appointments in 2018.
Built-in collaboration with the Federal Highways Administration, the nearly 5,000-square foot facility houses 11 administration staff and offers office space for 30 regional transportation specialists.
Transportation services offered by the tribe also allow for individual shuttles to take riders to and from work, depending on the availability of buses and schedules for the day.
According to Rick Miller, senior operations manager, routing is based on census data and the need for public transportation.
“It is like a puzzle. We need to fit all the pieces together with the clients and drivers. We use our best estimates where our drivers will be and at what time,” Miller said. “We have some of the best routing software available, but it is still a daunting task.”
To assure a clean, comfortable ride, the facility also includes a wash bay area for the fleet. Currently, eight full-sized shuttles and vans are used to transport riders to various locations, with 23 minivans supplementing the fleet. The majority of the fleet is handicap accessible. The fleet includes a large shuttle able to accommodate 30 passengers and is equipped with a four-wheel-drive for slick weather conditions.
Vehicles in the fleet are outfitted with superior maintenance and safety technology. Computers within the vehicles communicate mechanical problems to drivers and managers, track speed and provide the exact location of vehicles.
Medical transportation available for Native Americans
For more than 20 years, the Chickasaw Nation has offered safe, reliable transportation to residents who live within its boundaries. As the tribe has grown, so have the services and features of public transportation offered. Today, transportation is available to those in need of nonemergency medical services, along with medication deliveries.
“Transportation services provided by the Chickasaw Nation grow every year. We have expanded our services, routes, and equipment,” Miller said. “Medical transportation has always been our number one priority.”
Medical transportation includes rides to and from the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center. For those needing to see a medical specialist, or who require unique treatments, rides are also provided to hospitals and clinics in Oklahoma City.
Although not paramedics, Chickasaw Nation drivers receive CPR/first aid training due to the nature of their work. They are also trained to safely operate the onboard wheelchair lift and safety equipment, and receive customer service training to meet riders’ needs.
Transportation services also deliver medications to Chickasaw Nation Area Offices for convenient pick up by citizens. On average, 500 medicines for Native American patients are delivered and picked up at the area offices per year.
“Many of our citizens have chronic conditions where medications are needed and they live far from our clinics or pharmacies,” Miller said. “Our drivers deliver medications to area offices for them. Once there, they are picked up by the patient.”
The facility helps expand transportation services, making a positive impact on the lives of Chickasaws and those in the community it serves, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said.
“While this is a beautiful facility, what is even more important is the work people do from here,” Governor Anoatubby said. “We are pleased when we are able to have a positive impact on the lives of Chickasaws and others in the community.”