Transit keeps on rollin’
WORTHINGTON — Rumors have circulated that the Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit system has ground to a halt. Nothing could be further from the truth. The four-county transit system is still functioning with a new call-ahead program to schedule rides in Nobles, Murray, Pipestone and Rock counties.
“Every Tuesday and Thursday you can still get a ride throughout the four counties. You just need to call ahead to schedule it,” explained Karen DeBoer, transit coordinator at Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council.
The switch to the new scheduling system began Monday. Buses will not run unless riders call ahead to schedule a trip. The scaled-back system is in response to lower ridership than anticipated when the program was implemented.“The first route we implemented, I think, was a little overzealous, because we really wanted to get people really good access between the four counties,” DeBoer explained. “That was the reason MnDOT gave us this grant. They wanted increased service hours, increased options and eliminating cross county lines.“By coming up with this really comprehensive schedule, we were able to do that, but it was a little too daunting for people. They just couldn’t quite grasp the schedule. Tailoring it down just to the simple Tuesday and Thursday rides really made a difference.“We hear the stories of people that need rides,” DeBoer continued. “They need to get to an appointment; need to get to a family member. (They) live in one of those smaller communities between the four county seats and need those goods and services.”Unlike a metropolitan transit system, the Buffalo Ridge Regional Transit takes passengers directly where they need to go. Riders are taken to a specific destination rather than deposited at a centralized stops. Furthermore, riders can schedule multiple stops at a time on one trip.“Someone from Rushmore, for example, can get picked up and brought here to Worthington,” DeBoer suggested. “(They) can go to the post office, and when they are done at the post office, the bus will pick them up and bring them to the eye doctor. When they’re done at the eye doctor, the bus will pick them up and bring them to the library.”The bus service is open to anyone regardless of age or income. Routes begin as early as 7:30 a.m. and run as late as 4:10 p.m. Round-trip fares are $15. Complete route information is available at www.brrtmn.com or www.smoc.us.The Minnesota Department of Transportation will host a series of focus groups and distribute surveys later this year to determine the needs for the system within the communities for the system. The grant provided by MnDOT will run out at the end of this year.
DeBoer encourages everyone to participate in MNDOT’s research to determine ridership needs. For example, if changing the schedule to Monday and Wednesday would be better, the Transit wants to know that.“This fall when MnDOT starts doing that market research, respond to the surveys (and) attend the focus groups. If you know of a transportation need, please get that information to us. (We want to) do whatever we can to get really good information about what people need.”To schedule a ride, call 1-888-735-2537 the day before you intend to use the service.