The new transit system transporting people around north-central Montana is moving toward its second year, with an application pending for its second year of funding and thanks coming from the community. During a meeting of the Transit Authority Committee that oversees North Central Montana Transit, Trina Crawford, director of emergency services for The Salvation Army in Havre, said the number of gas vouchers she has given out has dropped about 30 percent, and a formerly common complaint has disappeared. “Since the transit has been up, I have not had anybody grace my doors with saying ‘I lost my job because I couldn’t get there because I couldn’t depend on a friend,” Crawford said. “Just want to say kudos to you, and I appreciate that,” she added. The committee primarily met to discuss the application being filed with the state Department of Transportation for its second year of funding. MDT awarded a $75,000 startup grant to the system last year, and the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provide d a n o t h e r $227,000 to buy new buses. The application is still being finali z e d , a n d Lyons sai d separate discussions probably will be held with the entities involved in the system’s operations about what they can provide in cash and in-kind contributions for its next year of operations. Montana State University-Northern, the Hill and Blaine county governments, Havre and Chinook, Northern Montana Hospital and the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy’s Indian reservations, as well as the Havre-based anti-poverty Organization Opportunity Link Inc., all are among the groups that have been involved in the creation and operation of the transit system. One of the buses the system is purchasing already is in use on the Hi-Line, but Transit Director Jim Lyons said the next two might have a slight delay — after seeing ridership exceed all expectations, the system is asking for larger vehicles. “It may impact the delivery, maybe a month,” Lyons said. The system originally ordered two 21-seat buses, but it is consistently seeing about 20 to 23 people a day on some routes, so “21-passenger really doesn’t do us much good,” he said. The system began operating in August, with the expectation that it would transport 200-350 passengers a month. From the start the number of riders demolished that expectation. Lyons said that in January, typically part of the slower season for transportation systems, the buses transported 1,659 passengers. “Instead of 200 people a month, we’re transporting 200 people a day,” he said. The system also is looking at acquiring some buses from Missoula’s intercity transit system, The Mountain Line. Lyons said that system is in the process of buying new buses, and North Central may be able to pick up the buses, possibly at no cost. Those buses could be used for special events, Lyons said, some of which already are being planned. One is the gathering of the Montana Tavern Association for its annual meeting next year, expected to bring some 350 people to Havre for three days, said Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce. Lyons said the transit system already has been contacted by the association to see if it could provide transportation. Events like that could bring additional revenue to the transit system, he said.
Bus system moves toward second year of funding
Published: Thursday, February 18th, 2010
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