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AUSTIN EDITION AMCAT seeks to increase number of people using system

By Roxana Orellana

rorellana@postbulletin.com

Local transit system manager Kelly Joseph made her daughter take the bus. Her daughter wasn't happy about it and asked the driver to drop her off a block before her destination so her friends wouldn't see her get off the "uncool" bus.

Chairman of the Austin Mower County Area Transit board Scott Pacholl said he often hears of such incidents. People don't view the system as a mode of public transportation; rather, they think it is only for the elderly and those with disabilities.

"We need to do something different to get more riders and attract others to use the bus," Joseph said.

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After a review by the state, the board was told to increase ridership.

Tom Dankert, fiscal agent for the AMCAT board, said the state compared statistical information for 2000 and 2006.

The full report is being drafted; however, Dankert said initial analysis shows that, financially, the board has the problem solved. Ridership numbers, however, need to improve.

Currently, AMCAT receives 85 percent of its funding from state and federal funds; 15 percent is paid locally.

AMCAT took over the system last year and began to work on getting the service operating in the black. Dankert said the performance review only looked at those two years and nothing in between, shedding little light on all the work done.

The state suggested the board look into adding hours to increase the number of riders.

Just last year, the board cut out 40 hours of service because not enough riders were using a route. Now that the money is available, the board talked about ways to add hours back and get people on the buses.

Some of the ideas discussed included going into towns such as Brownsdale and Rose Creek. Serving two to three riders per hour a couple of days a week would help the ridership stats.

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A survey would be done to figure out what kind of need those communities would have for the public transit. The board also talked about adding stops on the route used by dialysis patients going to Albert Lea and serving pre-school kids.

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