Transit service up and running in Hermantown
For the first time, residents of Edgewood Vista boarded a local transit bus right outside their front door in Hermantown Tuesday. The world around them -- sometimes inconveniently out of reach -- had come to their doorstep.
For the first time, residents of Edgewood Vista boarded a local transit bus right outside their front door in Hermantown Tuesday. The world around them - sometimes inconveniently out of reach - had come to their doorstep.
"The people at Edgewood have been wanting to have something like this for a long time," said Ann Carlson, who rested on a bench and watched her friends and neighbors board two Arrowhead Transit buses ticketed to give all Hermantown residents access to new and expanded service.
Carlson was waiting for a family member to pick her up. For many Edgewood residents, private rides have been their primary mode of transportation. But a Minnesota Department of Transportation mandate calling on transit providers to reach deeper into underserved parts of Greater Minnesota is changing that paradigm. The goal is for public transit - long a staple of metro areas - to reach 90 percent of Minnesotans with some form of service over the next 20 years.
To that end, the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, operators of Arrowhead Transit, started Dial-A-Ride services this week throughout Hermantown and a twice-weekly fixed route in Rice Lake. The agency received a $2.4 million MnDOT grant in March to help it purchase six new 20-foot buses.
"They're excited and we're excited," said Voni Smolke, an AEOA transit manager, of the Edgewood residents. "These are their buses, and they are wheelchair accessible. It creates independence. They can come and go as they please."
Pat Langenbrunner was seated in the front row of one of the buses. She served up a testament to how the service can change lives.
"My daughters - three of them - live in the cities," she said. "My son is here, but isn't always available. So, I just don't go. This is nice to have - knowing it will stop for me."
Smolke said Hermantown residents can expect a ride within 20 minutes of calling the dispatch center at (800) 862-0175. She added that AEOA is in conversations with the Duluth Transit Authority to allow Arrowhead Transit riders to transfer at locations in Hermantown onto DTA buses - further expanding options for riders. The prospective transfers would take place at the Super One Foods in the Burning Tree Plaza, Haines Road and Mall Drive and the Piedmont Park and Ride.
"There are a lot of details we're working out," she said, "but the DTA is being great about it."
Arrowhead Transit's Hermantown service will run Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with additional hours Saturday (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday (8 a.m. to 2 p.m.) In Rice Lake, the expansion will feature fixed routes every Tuesday and Thursday, picking up at City Hall at 9 a.m., with a return trip leaving from the Miller Hill Mall at 1 p.m. In between, the service will stop first at the mall, then (per request) Wal-Mart, Super One, Essentia Health-Hermantown Clinic, Hobby Lobby, the Duluth International Airport and more.
Arrowhead Transit's expanded services to Hermantown and Rice Lake are free through August, after which rides will be $1.