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BE Council hears update on Prairie Lakes Transit

By Staff | Mar 13, 2016

The Blue Earth City Council met briefly on Monday evening of last week. They were updated on how well the Prairie Lakes Transit system is running, discussed the new bridge coming in the summer on North Main Street, and the progress of the Main Street project.

Jeremy Monahan, transit director for the Faribault and Martin County Transit Board updated the council briefly on what has changed with the transit system and what things have been going well and not going well, much like he did the week previous at the Wells City Council meeting.

With Blue Earth, specifically, a “Blue Line” is in place throughout the city all day long. Citizens also have the option to use the “Gold Line” which shuttles people back and forth from Blue Earth to Fairmont and back.

City administrator Tim Ibisch asked Monahan if day passes were something the Prairie Lakes Transit did.

“If I took the Gold line from Blue Earth to Fairmont, but wanted to use a different bus inside of Fairmont, would I have to pay again?” asked Ibisch.

Monahan’s answer was, at this point, yes. He stated that so far, a ticket or token to ride is $2. For those who invest in the token packs, the rides come to about $1.50 per ride. Once riders use that bus ride and get onto another bus, it costs another fare to ride. Though he did add that he would look into the option for the future.

“Right now, we are just looking at our routes and seeing what is going well and what needs improvement,” said Monahan.

Both councilman Russ Erichsrud and councilman Marty Cassen asked Monahan how things were going for senior citizens and handicapped citizens using the Prairie Lakes Transit.

Their concerns stemmed from early on in the new system, when people were reporting buses weren’t taking enough time at each stop to make sure all senior citizens and handicapped riders were accounted for at the stops.

“What we have found, especially with stops at St. Luke’s and the hospital is that these patrons are used to the old system, where they would be brought out of their buildings and loaded up by the bus staff. We can’t do that anymore. We cannot go any further than the curb,” said Monahan.

Erichsrud still had some concern.

“A good majority of our riders are either senior citizens or handicapped. Why are we not taking the precautions to assist them like we did?” asked Erichsrud.

To which Monahan addressed that it was a liability concern for both the rider and the bus driver.

Councilman Dan Warner asked Monahan both how the bus stops in town were chosen and if Prairie Express had gotten more ridership yet, to which Monahan said not yet.

He said that the service is 85 percent subsidized by Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Prairie Lakes Transit is not at its projected ridership capacity yet. Monahan hopes the ridership will cover the remaining 15 percent of the subsidy.

Monahan also stated that the way bus stops were chosen were from previous ridership stops.

“We chose the most frequented stops from when it was the Prairie Express,” said Monahan.

The Blue Earth City Council also:

Heard an update from Ibisch on the Andy’s Oriental building. Ibisch says they are moving forward with the project and the demolition is out for bids.

“It is a separate structure from Oswald’s, so we will be pulling the structure inward, away from Oswald Brewery,” said Ibisch.

Received an update on the North Main Street bridge project. Ibisch shared with the council that the street would receive a bituminous finish, instead of concrete, and that the street would be narrowed. Ten trees will be removed during the reconstruction of the road, but Ibisch states that the ten trees removed from the project will be replaced.

He also stated that the construction would more than likely happen after Blue Earth’s county fair and most of the summer baseball season.

Found out from Ibisch that the Main Street project plan was submitted on March 4 to the state of Minnesota.

The plan is to reconstruct two blocks of Main.