Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The executive director of a regional anti-poverty group said Tuesday that a regional transportation service could start in the Havre area next month. Barb Stiffarm of Opportunity Link said the state Department of Transportation has awarded $75,000 to start transit authority operations in the area, and $227,000 has been awarded through the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to purchase buses. “We’re advertising right now for a transit director,” Stiffarm said, adding, “We hope to start some transit services in early July.” Stiffarm said the group working on setting up public transportation Services will meet Friday to be updated on the funding and what all has been happening in setting up the service. The next step will be working to decide what routes will be run and timetables for the services. “We’re in the process of pulling all that information together right now,” she said. The director, once hired, and the Transit Authority Commission will hold public meetings to collect input on where and when buses should run, Stiffarm said. “Right now we’re trying to link with existing community services along the Hi-Line that people really need to get to,” she said. That will include providing access to education, employment, shopping, recreation, and health care services, Stiffarm said. She said part of the discussion also will involve looking into in-kind services, such as storing and maintaining the buses and locations to set up bus stops. Opportunity Link also will be sponsoring a contest to help name the service, Stiffarm said. “With the award of the buses we want a regional identity,” she said. “We’re sponsoring a contest to name the bus, to give a name that represents the region.” Stiffarm said the intent of the authority is to tie in with other transportation systems, such as coordinating with the transit systems in Shelby and Pondera County and with the Great Falls system. The system also will try to tie in with Amtrak and the flights provided by Great Lakes Airlines, as well as providing transportation to shopping, medical care and other services, she said. Part of the planning will include ensuring commitments from local governments and organizations for funding, Stiffarm said. The group has other applications for funding out through the Reinvestment and Recovery Act and through private and public organizations, but has not received approval on any of that funding as yet, she added. Stiffarm said she expects the region to receive three buses purchased through the Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds by this fall, and is looking into leasing buses to provide interim service this summer.