By Ivan Raconteur
Herald Journal Editor
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN Trailblazer Transit has been preparing to expand into Wright County July 1, to provide service after River Rider Transit ceases operations June 30.
Since June 23, Trailblazer has been providing contract service to Functional Industries in the following communities with two buses in service:
• Marysville Township
• St. Michael
• Woodland Township
According to Gary Ludwig, executive director of the Trailblazer Joint Powers Board, Trailblazer is projecting to provide approximately 33,000 rides annually on these two buses alone, without any non-contract rides added into the mix.
There will be an additional four hours of service each day on each bus schedule to add to these totals once Trailblazer has a long-term facility fully operational in Wright County. MnDOT and Trailblazer are currently working with the Buffalo Housing Authority to secure a facility in Buffalo.
Ludwig noted a third bus will be in service starting today (Monday) June.
This bus will primarily serve the Rockford area.
Non-contract general public service will also begin today.
Residents can start calling now to schedule rides in Wright County for next week. However, there will only be three buses in service until approximately mid-August, so bus availability will be limited, Ludwig said.
The first non-contract, casual ride request for Wright County was scheduled June 24 for a Buffalo-to-Buffalo ride July 1.
The next four buses are expected to begin service in the months ahead.
Bus 4 is expected to start service Aug. 11; bus 5 is expected to start Aug. 25; and buses 6 and 7 are expected to start Sept. 15 and 29, respectively.
Ludwig noted Trailblazer plans to have seven buses in service in Wright County by Oct. 1, and sooner if resources permit.
“Please remember that six of the seven buses will be providing contract service for Functional Industries, so bus service will still be somewhat limited in Wright County for non-contract riders during the premium hours in the early mornings and late afternoons until more buses can be added into service,” Ludwig noted.
The Wright County Area Transit (WCAT) partnership with Sibley and McLeod counties to form a new Trailblazer Joint Powers Board will likely be necessary before any significant amount of service above the first seven buses will be added in Wright County, Ludwig noted.
“However, it is entirely possible that another three-to-five additional buses (in addition to the first seven) could be added into service in Wright County sometime in 2015 if everything falls into place nicely by Jan. 1, 2015,” he added.
“We’re on our way,” McLeod County Commissioner Ron Shimanski, who is a member of the Trailblazer Transit Joint Powers Board, said.
Shimanski noted the board is waiting to finalize agreements for a facility in Wright County.
Ludwig said Trailblazer drivers have been conducting practice runs in Wright County in order to familiarize themselves with the area.
Ludwig said he has had numerous meetings with people in Wright County in preparation for Trailblazer’s expansion into the county.
“We are re-booting public transit in Wright County,” Ludwig said.