AppalCART Keeps the High Country Moving

Published Monday, October 26, 2020 at 10:53 am

The High Country’s transit authority is not just a free ride for Watauga residents and App State students. For the Watauga community, it’s a lifeline that keeps people working, keeps businesses humming, and keeps thousands of cars off our roads. AppalCART keeps The High Country moving with every stop.

AppalCART director Craig Hughes knows there’s power in numbers, which is why he eagerly shares the number 6,500: “That’s the number of cars we keep off our roads every day. About 13,000. That’s about the number of trips we save people from having to take by car throughout the county on a given day.”

The transit authority for Watauga County, aptly named AppalCART, has played a key role in building and strengthening our community since 1981. Local leaders say AppalCART has been integral to the success of our businesses, organizations, and our beloved Appalachian State University.

Michael Maybee, president and CEO of Watauga Opportunities, says it’s become a lifeline for residents with disabilities. His organization works hard to integrate these residents into jobs at local businesses and organizations in The High Country.

“Since 1995 we have placed more than 1,300 individuals in jobs in the Watauga Community,” Maybee said. “Finding jobs is not the biggest barrier. Finding transportation is the biggest barrier. And AppalCART doesn’t just get our people where they need to go, their drivers also take a personal interest in them. It’s really a large urban benefit with a small-town flavor.”

AppalCART’s downtown and rural transit routes provide this critical transportation to and from the farthest reaches of Watauga County.

Tina Krause, executive director of Hospitality House, similarly said many of the people they serve in Watauga County rely on the transit authority for transportation to work, medical appointments, and for other everyday needs.

“Public Transit is a vital community resource. Hospitality House is grateful for the partnership we have with AppalCART, allowing for a system that recognizes the importance of dignity and service for all who have a need.”

An Important Asset to the Elderly

Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque says the many transit routes that crisscross the county serve the senior population of Boone and surrounding areas.

“This service is invaluable in allowing seniors in Watauga County to remain independent and at home,” Geouque says. “Many clients who are no longer able to drive, or who are not comfortable driving, utilize AppalCart. Transportation is provided to medical appointments, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, utility companies, as well as to the two Senior Centers in the county.”

Empowering Our Community, Reducing Traffic, and Cleaner Air

Since its beginnings nearly four decades ago, AppalCART has grown to include more than 40 vehicles in its fleet–ranging from minivans and suvs to more than two dozen full-sized buses that frequent the center of town and the University campus. Work is also underway to add an electric bus to the transit options.

Giving a fare-free ride to more than 6,000 university students and to hundreds of residents and visitors in Watauga County also provides a powerful incentive for the more economically sensible and environmentally sensitive choice of public transit. The thousands of people who step on and off AppalCART vehicles every day contribute to cleaner air, less congested roads, and a stronger community in The High Country.

“We’re a free service to anyone who lives in or visits Watauga County, and we’re the obvious option for anyone here who’s concerned about the carbon footprint created by car traffic,” said Craig Hughes, director of AppalCART. “Everybody can use it, and it’s a simple but significant step toward improving air quality, traffic congestion, and overall quality of life in our county.”

Powering and Connecting the University Campus

Kim Morton, Director of Transfer and Recruitment Retention at Appalachian State University, says that AppalCART has made it possible for the university to accommodate the thousands of students who live off campus.

“About 75 percent of our students live off campus and AppalCART allows them to get to campus without having to worry about parking or worry about the weather. AppalCART takes all those concerns away,” Morton said. “It’s a very unique service for a small town, and it keeps our students connected to campus.”

Boone Town Manager John Ward echoes these words, highlighting also how important AppalCART is to connecting and protecting the beauty of The High Country.

“The Town of Boone is fortunate to be the home of AppalCART, one of North Carolina’s premier public transportation providers,” John said. “With Boone, Watauga County, and Appalachian State University all growing, the need for public transportation has never been greater.”

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