Regional transit system updates routes
WORTHINGTON — It wasn’t the best winter to launch a four-county public transportation pilot program, but recent changes to the Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit (BRRT) system are hoped to increase interest in ridership.
BRRT buses hit the road in December in Nobles, Rock, Murray and Pipestone counties as a way to improve access to services in the region for individuals who might not otherwise have a means to travel.
Karen DeBoer, Prairieland Transit System Director at the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council, said the changes provide “consistent times for people to get a ride.”
Now, instead of each county sending a transit bus in a loop around the four counties, each county has specific routes. For instance, Nobles County Heartland Express will travel between Worthington and Slayton and Worthington and Luverne. The Rock County Heartland Express will go between Luverne and Pipestone and Luverne and Worthington. Pipestone County Transit’s route goes to Luverne and Slayton; and the Murray County Heartland Express will go between Pipestone and Worthington.
The cross-county transportation is offered every Tuesday and Thursday.
“Operating at the same time every Tuesday and every Thursday allows you to know that if you need to make an appointment, (you) know when to schedule it,” said DeBoer.
The new schedule also allows for some deviation from the standard route to serve residents in outlying communities, such as Ellsworth, Adrian and Lismore in Nobles County, or other small towns in Rock, Pipestone and Murray counties.
“Having this flexibility allows us to serve more communities,” DeBoer said. “We think we can get better coverage throughout each of the counties this way.”
The route changes, De- Boer said, are in response to traffic patterns. There is not a set location in communities for riders to be picked up and dropped off — the bus will take them to where they need to go.
“Once they arrive in their destination community, they will get two transfers from the local transit system,” she explained. So, if a rider needed to visit the doctor, a dentist and a store in a particular community, they could use the local transit system to get them to each stop.
Since the new Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit routes began March 10, DeBoer said the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council has worked to expand ridership by spreading the word about the program and offering tokens to individuals interested in giving the regional transit system a try.
A limited number of tokens are available to try out the system, or can be purchased for either one-way or round-trip travel at the SMOC office, 1106 Third Ave., Worthington, or from the county transit program base in Rock, Pipestone and Murray counties.
“We know there are people who feel they can’t get to services or events because of lack of transportation,” DeBoer said. “The new time structure is flexible enough and can be adjusted as needs change.”
The regional transit is for anyone — the elementary-aged student who needs to get to the dentist, the senior citizen who has an appointment or needs to do some shopping, or a group of people who want to attend a specific event.
All of the Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit and county transit buses are equipped with a ramp to provide handicap accessibility.
“If you have a friend or relative with mobility issues making it difficult to connect, this would be a way to do that,” DeBoer said.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.