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Katherine Grandstrand, Forum Communications, Published December 01 2012

Dickinson to study bus route service

DICKINSON, N.D. – Traveling without a personal vehicle here is tricky and expensive.

There are multi-city buses that stop in Dickinson and other cities along Interstate 94, as well as four inbound and outbound commercial flights daily between the Queen City and Denver.

But if you’re looking to get around town or visit a nearby town, the best and cheapest option is to have your own transportation.

Now the city’s Public Transit agency is looking into a survey to determine the practicality of a fixed-route system in the city.

“To me, with the support of the city, I think it could be a viable option in the next couple years,” said Colleen Rodakowski, executive director of Public Transit in Dickinson. “It’s something that I would like to be a part of – of introducing to the city.”

Rodakowski said the agency’s projects coordinator recently drafted a survey to solicit community feedback on a bus service.

Bismarck-Mandan’s fixed-route system is less than a decade old and took planning and investment to get up and running, Bis-Man Transit executive director Robin Werre said.

“It took time to just get the equipment and also planning for it financially,” she said. “It’s not something we just could do overnight.”

There are 12 routes in Bismarck that operate on loops for efficiency, Werre said.

When drawing routes, Werre sat down with a consultant and figured out where the buses would be most utilized. This included major retail corridors, schools, medical care and low-income neighborhoods.

“We stay out of high-income areas because they’re not going to ride the bus,” she said.

Bismarck is considered an urban area and works directly with the federal government to study the transportation needs of the city, Werre said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation distributes federal transportation dollars to rural communities, such as Dickinson, NDDOT Local Government Engineer Paul Benning said.

“We provide the federal aid, and then they put together a rural transit provider system,” he said. “If they want to provide a fixed-route system inside the city of Dickinson, we have been able to provide them with some source of federal aid to do a transit and mobility study.”

Public Transit in Dickinson tries to limit its existing bus trips to just outside city limits, but it goes to Bismarck twice a week and will go further if a driver is available, Rodakowski said.

Without the study, it’s hard to know how Dickinson would react to a bus system, but the agency does about 4,000 trips per month, Rodakowski said.

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Katherine Grandstrand writes for The Dickinson Press