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County board split on buses leaving county

By Staff | Mar 9, 2009

Should the Prairie Express buses transport Faribault County citizens out of the county? That question was debated by the county board at their meeting last Tuesday.

On the table was a new transit policy, which included a set of rules for riders, one for drivers, and a new general operations policy.

Just before the commissioners were about to vote on the package, Commissioner Bill Groskreutz wanted to add an amendment to allow the buses to deliver riders up to 10 miles out of the county.

“Residents on the eastern side of the county go to Alden, Mapleton and Albert Lea as much as they go to Blue Earth,” Groskreutz said. He cited an example of a child taking the bus from Wells to Winnebago to visit his grandparents. “What if those grandparents lived in Mapleton instead? He couldn’t take the bus then.”Commissioner Tom Loveall said he had a problem with county tax dollars used to transport people out of the county to shop. He suggested sending the issue back to the transit committee for further study.

The commissioners seemed split on the issue. Commissioner John Roper said he didn’t see a problem with the 10 mile radius, and suggested it be used for medical appointments only, and not for shopping trips.

Loveall explained that since the bus is mass transit, they can’t make the determination of what people use it for.

“That is what got us into trouble before,” Loveall said. “We can’t decide what it is used for, or who’s trip is more important than someone elses.”

Commissioner Tom Warmka wanted to see the 10 mile radius implemented, in order to be fair to residents living near the county borders.

Although he admitted there is a lot of regional shopping, Commissioner Butch Erichsrud said he didn’t favor having the buses leave the county.

Central Services Director Brenda Ripley presented the final version of the transit policy to the board, and asked for action on it as soon as possible.

“We would like to implement this by April 1st,” she said. “Plus we want to print brochures which would explain all of the policy changes.”

The board voted to proceed with the new policy, and send the out-of-county question back to the transit committee.

There were four major changes in the new policy.

Reservations for bus rides will now be taken on a first come, first served basis. The buses will now be operated on a curb-to-curb basis instead of door-to-door. The amount of time before a bus ride can be reserved has also changed.

The fourth item is the rates. The regular reserved ride fare is being raised from $2 to $3. For the advanced reserved ride, the rate is being increased to $6.

The expanded service rate, for group rental, was increased to $45 per hour.