AUSTIN EDITION Proposal would combine bus routes
Mower County must work with $12,000 shortfall
By Seth Rowe
Mower County Transit has proposed consolidating two bus routes and is cutting the hours of some buses to make up for a cut from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The cut for this year's budget will not be as severe as was previously thought. Transit coordinator Eduardo Alvear said state officials had warned county transit organizations to prepare for cuts in state aid up to 20 percent. For Mower County Transit, state aid is 65 percent of this year's budget, or $407,500 of $627,000.
The county bus system will lose about $12,000.
The county spent $17,000 last year to pay for the bus system, said Alvear. Next year's budget will be discussed at a county finance committee meeting Friday.
If approved by the bus system manager, the yellow-green route in Austin would be consolidated with the brown-purple route. Alvear said the earliest the change would be made is Sept. 1. The consolidation would create a line that would likely be more direct, and key stops would still be included on the revised route. Alvear said the dial-a-ride bus would still be available to anyone in the area, as well.
The brown-purple route runs north and south between the Hecla House at 23rd Avenue Northwest to St. Mark's Lutheran Home in the south. The yellow-green route stretches from Austin Community College in the west to beyond the Neveln School in the east.
The bus service cut its service hours in June because of the usual decrease in passengers during the summer. Only one of the two dial-a-ride buses will operate in the afternoons. Also, Saturday service for the dial-a-ride service will be from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The red route will operate from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday instead of from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cuts the service made earlier in the year were the child route, the Jefferson Lines stop and the elimination of a uniform allowance.
The changes helped reduce the cost of service per passenger to $5.55 this year, down from $8.10 last year. Fare revenue is also up this year, in part because of a fare increase from $1 for a one-way trip to $1.50. The dial-a-ride bus fare is $2.50.
In addition to county and state aid, the service gets route guarantee payments from Hormel. Austin Medical Center pays the fares of some patients.