Brian Todd, email@example.com | Aug. 23, 2017
STEWARTVILLE — The city of Stewartville will start sharing its regional bus service with Chatfield beginning Sept. 7.
Dan Mulholland, a member of the city’s transit advisory committee, told the city council that ridership levels with Rolling Hills Transit are still not meeting minimum standards, and the city’s transit bus will run twice a week to Chatfield.
“Our ridership numbers don’t match the grant money numbers,” Mulholland said. “If our numbers increase, we can have our bus back to just ourselves.”
The bus will make morning runs on Mondays and Thursdays to Chatfield, after starting in Stewartville at 7:30 a.m. and leaving at 8:15 a.m. The bus will then go to Chatfield and pick up riders between 8:40-9 a.m. before proceeding to Rochester by 9:30 a.m.
The bus will also make runs to and within Chatfield from 10-11:30 a.m. and 1:20-2:20 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Return trips from Rochester will depart at 4 p.m. from downtown, arriving in Chatfield from 4:30-4:45 p.m. before proceeding to Stewartville at 5:05-5:30 p.m.
The Stewartville bus, which is part of a SEMCAC program to offer low-cost rides for surrounding communities both within those communities and to Rochester, has faced low ridership levels since it began two years ago.
The minimum standard for the grant is three riders per hour of operation. From February through April, the Stewartville bus had 289 riders, which amounted to 1.42 riders per hour. Mulholland said that beginning in June, ridership numbers increased slightly for Stewartville. “A few months ago, ridership went up for two months, but in the last month or so it’s gone back to normal levels.”
During a city council meeting in April, SEMCAC transportation director Erlene Welshons told the city council that one option would be to eliminate Monday ridership altogether.
The route including Chatfield is a trial run for that city, Mulholland said, and also a way to bolster the numbers for the Stewartville bus while Rolling Hills Transit works to increase ridership in the city.
“This is something that they’re unsure what the numbers will be,” Mulholland said, adding the city of Chatfield has begun advertising the service to its residents. “If their numbers can be enough to support their own us, they’ll revisit us.”
The sharing of the bus service with Chatfield also comes at a time when the bus that serves Stewartville needs to be replaced. Twenty percent of the replacement cost will fall on the city, Mulholland said.
“We’re sharing this bus with other towns,” said Stewartville Mayor Jimmie-John King. “So it’s not just our bus.” King said the city and SEMCAC would need to reach out to Chatfield to find a way to share the 20 percent cost for the new bus.
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