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KAT board approves taxi subsidy

WILLMAR -- A proposal to subsidize the Willmar Taxi service as part of the Kandiyohi Area Transit system was approved Friday by the KAT joint powers board.

The subsidy will go into effect Jan. 2.

Details for how the plan will be implemented are still being developed but the intent is to offset taxi fares to make transportation within the city of Willmar affordable and available during hours when KAT buses are not running.

The estimated $15,000 cost for the subsidy would come from new funding KAT expects to receive in 2007 from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said John Groothuis, KAT director.

The subsidy would offset taxi fares during the hours of 4-6 a.m. and 6-10 p.m.

Groothuis said it hasn't been determined if the subsidy will include a flat fee for each ride or a percentage of the fare. It also hasn't been determined how the subsidy would be dispensed. He said the subsidy could go either to the taxi company for rides provided during the specified hours, or riders could obtain vouchers from KAT.

Groothuis said he's "really excited" about the partnership with Willmar Taxi. He said getting the details of the system worked out and making transportation available for a "fair price for the riders" will be good for the community.

Without the subsidy, the taxi service may not be able to stay in business, he said, which would put even more pressure on KAT to extend bus service hours and increase KAT's expenditures.

KAT is expected to get the equivalent of 1,000 hours of new service from MnDOT in 2007, generating about $100,000 in new revenue to KAT for a total annual allocation of about $800,000.

Besides subsidizing the taxi service, the new revenue will also be used to expand current routes by KAT buses, said Groothuis.

The additional revenue from MnDOT will be "a plus" for KAT but isn't as big as was expected. Groothuis said he had anticipated revenue that would reflect 2,500 additional hours of service instead of the 1,000 that KAT will receive. That will mean that routes won't be expanded as much as originally planned next year.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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