Jackson County local Patrick Nettles is bringing a safer way to party to the area via the Cat Express, which began on Jan. 31.
“Don’t stress, ride the Express” is the slogan for the new bus system catering toward those wanting to go out over the weekend.
Nettles purchased an old Harrah’s Cherokee Casino shuttle bus and turned it into the Cat Express. The bus was refurbished to hold 23 passengers sitting down and features handlebars. The bus will be used to transport students between local bars to cut down drunk-driving incidents and other dangers associated with going out late alone.
“Student safety is paramount,” Nettles said.
Nettles said he got the idea when he saw an overwhelming need for late night transportation. He views the bus as a benefit to the community, local bars and even the police.
The Cat Express will pull up to the Ramsey Center and The Village on Western Carolina University’s Cullowhee campus at approximately 9, 10 and 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The Cat Express will also take pick-ups at Rabbit Ridge, The Catamount Peaks and The Summit. The bus will return to these same locations at midnight, 1 and 2 in the morning.
Nettles explored the option of adding The Villas and The Suites to the route but found the narrow road too dangerous.
Nettles will service students to O’Malley’s Pub and Grill, Rae’s City Grill and No Name Sports Pub. The later time schedule was meant to cater to the over-21 year old crowd and the bars.
“I think it’s a great idea, but I would use it as last resort. I would rather have someone I trust take me if I’m drunk, even if it is a public service,” said Delante Randolph, WCU junior.
A round-trip fee of $10 will be charged. While the flyers say students can pay with cash, students can also pay with debit cards.
As of right now, Nettles is the only driver. He said he will wait to see how successful the service is before adding more buses and drivers.
“I think it’s a very good idea. I think it’s well thought out, but I don’t know if students will be willing to pay $10,” said WCU sophomore Rebecca Cook.
Nettles also discussed the idea of a possible Walmart run to supplement the Cat Tran’s monthly Walmart run, mainly targeted toward underclassmen. For the upperclassmen, Nettles also brought up the possibility of an Asheville pub crawl once a month. Additionally, when The Cat Express takes off, organizations may be able to charter the bus.
“I’m a go-getter. Whatever it takes to make it happen, I’ll do it. In my gut, I see the need and I see what it can do,” said Nettles.
Lighthouse Baptist Church initially bought two of the old busses at auction with the intention of using them for youth activities. After seeing them sit for a year, Nettles decided to buy one.
“[It was] not as easy to get off the ground as I thought, but we’re on the verge,” said Nettles.
For more information, students can keep an eye out for The Cat Express on Facebook and Twitter at www.facebook.com/thecatexpress and www.twitter.com/thecatexpress. Deals and performance schedules for the various bars will be posted on The Cat Express’s social media pages.