HJ/EDMarch 13, 2006

More Dassel residents may get access to Meeker County transit bus

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Dassel area residents currently have the fewest opportunities to ride the Meeker County Public Transit system in the county. Transit officials would like to correct that by expanding the bus line into Dassel.

Judy Barka of Meeker County transit told the Dassel City Council last Monday that the system will get a fourth bus by mid-March, giving it the chance to expand service in Dassel.

One of the transit system’s buses covers only the city of Litchfield. The other two serve all of Meeker County and Litchfield.

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“We served almost 40,000 rides last year throughout the county. We track the number of riders denied. Dispatchers have had to deny a growing number of riders in the Dassel area,” Barka said.

Currently the bus serving Dassel picks up ProWorks clients for travel to Litchfield and Hutchinson and back.

“The bus is really for everyone,” Barka said, adding that countywide, senior citizens, school students and people going to work or getting groceries ride the bus.

The buses are handicapped accessible and can accommodate electric scooters, she said.

Barka, Beverly Herfindahl of MNDOT and Brandon Pietsch of Augustana Homes, which owns the buses, proposed to the council that the system will have a bus available for Dassel from 9:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, beginning April 1, and special permission to go to Cokato and Hutchinson.

“We will be asking for a cash outlay,” Barka said.

It is estimated to cost $24,960. Usually, the city pays about a third of that. The rest of the funds come from the county and the transit’s reserve account. Riders will be charged $1.25 for one-way within the Dassel city limits, $2.50 to go to Litchfield, and $15 for a 15-ride punch card, Barka said.

“It’s not a small amount of money for Dassel,” City Administrator Myles McGrath said of the city’s share of $8,000 to $9,000.

Also, the city budget for 2006 is already set, McGrath said.

He asked Barka if the bus schedule could be slimmed down to just Tuesday and Thursday or three days a week.

“We can be flexible,” Barka responded.

If MNDOT has the dollars available, it will provide funding, she said. Also, the more riders who use the bus, the more funding the system gets.

Barka told the council members she expected them to not only ride the bus, but also “be cheerleaders for the bus.” The transit system’s advisory council needs two volunteers from Dassel to meet with the council twice a year, she said.

The transit system started in 1995 and is a cooperative effort by Augustana Homes, Hicks Bus Line, MNDOT, Meeker County, and Litchfield, Barka said.


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