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KAT takes transit in new direction

WILLMAR — The Kandiyohi Area Transit is moving in a new direction — literally and figuratively.

KAT is currently working with Meeker County to establish a shared route between Litchfield and Willmar and they are working with the Renville County transit system on a proposed merger that will create administrative efficiencies and more coordinated services between those two counties, said KAT Transit Director Tiffany Collins.

Collins updated the KAT operations board recently about progress in drawing up a joint powers agreement with Renville County.

She said that process will likely take much of 2014, with the goal of having the two systems “fully meshed” by 2015.

“There’s a lot of work to do between now and then,” said Collins.

Operating as one unit will allow the counties to have one contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which provides a majority of the funding for Greater Minnesota transit systems.

The merger will also make the entities eligible for additional grants, said Collins.

There are many unknowns about how exactly a merged system will look and work, but she said patrons won’t likely see a big change in service, and if they do, the changes will be improved transit service.

The efficiencies will primarily be seen on the administrative side.

Currently both systems do identical tasks for required duties like drug and alcohol testing, procurement and safety and security.

Instead of duplicating those duties, Collins said the current staff in each entity will divide the duties and “we can do a better job with all of these things rather than having us each do them.”

She said that will result in administrative savings and a “better run program.”

“We’re excited to be working with Renville County,” said Collins.

Meanwhile, KAT is working out details to provide a coordinated route between Litchfield and Willmar that is part of the “Transit for our Future” grant.

The MnDOT program includes a two-year grant of $75,000 annually for KAT to work with the Meeker County public transit system.

Under the current plan, KAT will house a bus in Litchfield and drivers will pick up passengers between the two towns three days a week — Monday, Wednesday and Friday — to take them to various appointments.

The route is scheduled to begin in January, although there are a few details yet to work out.

Earlier this fall KAT had submitted a proposal to be a third-party manager for the Meeker County transit system, but that proposal was rejected.

Carolyn Lange

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

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