Every once in a while, a statistic gets thrown out and actually sticks, and unfortunately, those statistics don't always paint a complete picture. I would like to clarify Knoxville's misleading ranking with regard to public transit use in a 2011 Brookings Institute report, as stated in "Outsmarting Old Habits"—a great story on the Smart Trips program from the June 28th issue. [Citybeat by Paige Huntoon] First, let me start with a little background: Within the Knoxville metropolitan area, the City of Knoxville is the only governmental entity with a fixed route public transit system, which is Knoxville Area Transit (KAT). As such, KAT operates within the city limits and aspires to provide really good transit service to the urban core of the city (with the exception of Route 102X, The Farragut Express, which is partially supported by The Town of Farragut).
The Brookings Institute report examined metropolitan areas across the United States that provide transit services. Many, or most, metropolitan areas have regional transit services, or multiple and interconnected fixed route transit offerings. The Knoxville metropolitan area does not. When the Brookings Institute says that 0.4 percent of people use public transit to get to work in Knoxville, they mean in the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon and Union counties. What these statistics have gotten translated into in certain quarters is "Knoxville has one of the worst transit systems in the country." But really, that's like saying the Knox County Health Department is doing a horrible job because of the poor service they provide to Grainger County.
While KAT welcomes aboard many passengers from neighboring counties when they commute to or visit the City of Knoxville, we recognize that our focus must of necessity be on providing the best public transit service we can within the city's urban boundaries.
Knoxville Area Transit