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September 19, 2012

New bus line links Athens and Tyler

Pastor, transportation expert combine to move people to out-of-town jobs

Athens — A pastor’s vision, and a woman’s knowledge of transportation, have combined to launch a bus line between Athens and Tyler.

Alan Coleman, pastor of Gates Community Church, said the idea behind the Chariot Bus Lines is to get people from Athens to the areas of Tyler where the jobs are.

Coleman said he was tired of seeing the young men in the church move away to Dallas or Tyler, because they couldn’t find a job in their hometown.

Coleman’s father was in the bus business for about 50 years, but Alan wanted no part of the industry.

That background in buses, however,  came to his mind when he tried to think of a way to get the young people in his community to Tyler.

He took his ideas to the church, and eventually got the go-ahead to purchase three buses. It was a step of faith for the church to buy three buses at a cost of about $100,000.          

“They trust God, and they trust me, and they believe in the people they’re trying to help,” Coleman.

Coleman said a key piece of the puzzle fell into place when John Hedrick, East Texas Council of Governments Director of Transportation, invited Coleman to a steering committee meeting.

There he saw a vocal woman, who he later learned was Helen Thornton of Athens, vice chairman of the East Texas Transportation Steering Committee.

Thornton has held the position since she was appointed by Henderson County Judge David Holstein about six years ago.

“That was a blessing, because when I met Helen over the phone, she was wise enough in her background that she was able to put these pieces together.”

How did the idea become a reality in just two months?

“It’s a miracle,” Coleman and Thornton both exclaimed.

Coleman brings the business knowledge to the table, Thornton said, while she knows how to maneuver through the maze of state regulations.

“The two come together for a very nice fit,” Thornton said. “The church has the buses. Alan has the degree in business,  and I have the knowledge of rules and regulations, knowing what you can and can’t do.”

Coleman said he’s been getting up pretty early in the morning to be on-hand for the first bus to pull away from its Athens home to the Tyler destination.

There’ll be two trips each day, all from Athens Central Transfer in the parking lot at 505 S. Palestine St. near Save A Lot and Ken’s Pizza to Tyler Central Transfer, with regular stops in Brownsboro and Chandler along the way.

Each run will make stops in Murchison, Brownsboro, Chandler, and if anyone requests it, Tyler Pounds Field Airport.

In the afternoon the process will reverse, with the buses taking the same route from Tyler to Athens.

The first run was Monday morning, followed by a ribbon cutting with the Athens Chamber of Commerce. The biggest challenge now is getting regular riders to help sustain the line.

A round trip is $20, but a series of 10 trips will cost $35. Coleman says that’s a lot less expensive than driving your own car to work every day of the week. You can call Chariot Bus Lines at 877-776-4335 for times and schedules.

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