Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Public transit offers door-to-door, at-request service in some rural Minnesota communities

Public transit is the only means of transportation for some rural residents in states like Minnesota, where a 2014 study by Minnesota's Center for Rural Policy and Development found that "about 70 percent of transit riders using the most rural systems reported not having either a car or a driver’s license," Gregg Aamot reports for MinnPost, a non-profit news organization based in Minneapolis. In rural areas small buses "mainly serve people with limited transportation options: students and the elderly, the developmentally disabled, immigrants who have yet to obtain driver's licenses."

"The center, which issued a transit report in January, ahead of the legislative session, predicts that more Minnesotans in rural areas will need public transit in the coming years, especially as the elderly population increases," Aamot writes. "The report also notes the varied nature of public transit across Minnesota. For instance, the larger regional centers, such as Rochester and Duluth, have transit systems with elements that are familiar to transit users in the Twin Cities: terminals, multiple routes, park-and-ride options. Meanwhile, smaller cities like Owatonna, which has a population of 25,000, often have scheduled, fixed routes that move people around the city daily, stopping at shopping malls and other popular locations."
The center "calculates that rural transit systems carry 11 people per hour, at a cost of $7.39 per rider; Twin Cities transit systems, meanwhile, carry 26 people an hour, at a much cheaper $4.50 per rider," Aamot writes. There is one advantage to riding rural buses, Aamot notes: "Transit systems in rural Minnesota respond to the needs of riders. While many buses travel fixed routes, others routinely deviate from set routes to pick up people who have called dispatch centers for rides." While that meets the needs of rural residents, it can be inefficient, with buses traveling out of the way to pick up and deliver one rider to a specific location.

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