Regional transit gets a boost
WORTHINGTON — Whether it’s getting to a doctor’s appointment, attending a class or perhaps visiting family in another community, the new Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit (BRRT) system is now ready and waiting to take people to their area destinations.
After more than a year of planning, the BRRT is finally off and running. The bus made its first stop in Worthington on Tuesday, and is available to the general public four days per week.
Funded through a $280,000 Minnesota Department of Transportation grant, the BRRT is a partnership between Heartland Express in Rock, Nobles and Murray counties and Pipestone County Transit. Each of the four counties agreed to commit one of its existing buses to the regional transit program, and those buses have designated routes that extend to 14 communities. The BRRT does not replace existing routes already operating within counties, but is rather an extension of that program.
Karen DeBoer of the Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council said the regional transit system was established as a result of MnDOT’s desire to see increased public transportation in greater Minnesota. The BRRT is the first regional transit system — and a pilot project — through MnDOT’s Transit for our Future program.
“They came up with Transit for our Future (to focus on) projects that were consolidation or collaboration projects to reduce barriers to transportation, allow transportation across county lines and increase accessibility,” DeBoer explained.
Open to individuals of any age, the BRRT buses stop in Luverne, Worthington, Slayton and Pipestone, along with smaller communities in between, including Magnolia, Adrian, Rushmore, Fulda, Avoca, Hadley, Lake Wilson, Woodstock, Trosky and Hardwick.
“One day a week the bus will begin in each (county seat) community,” DeBoer said. “The pattern of the route makes sense. We know people are going from Worthington to Luverne, Luverne to Pipestone, Worthington to Slayton.”
The transit buses make a loop in the morning, and then a reverse loop in the afternoon. Each bus has a lift, making transportation available to people with disabilities.
“It is public transit and open and available to everyone,” DeBoer said. “We’ve already had calls from folks that have family in one of the communities, and they will use this system to visit with a family member.”
The bus will drop riders off wherever they need to go, and will pick them up at that same location or another in the community if riders have multiple stops to make while in town.
“We’re hoping this will reduce the amount of duplicated trips,” DeBoer said. “If family services has a client that has to get from Worthington to Luverne … folks can just hop on the bus.”
Because the transit system is still in its infant stage, DeBoer said there will be some issues to be worked out along the way. One of the big first steps will be to identify pick-up locations.
“Right now we’re asking folks to call us to book their ride and then we’ll get the pickup location,” she said. Riders are asked to call 376-3322, ext. 238, to reserve a seat on the 15-passenger bus.
If all goes well, DeBoer said there is potential to expand the transit system, perhaps to include Jackson and Cottonwood counties.
“Hopefully it becomes a service that truly meets the needs of the population,” she added. “As it grows, we can add additional days or additional routes.”
The cost for a ride on the BRRT is $15 round trip or $10 one way. Financial assistance may be available for those who can’t afford the full fee.
The bus will typically run from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. As ridership increases and needs warrant, DeBoer said routes and days of operation may change.