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KAT fares to increase

WILLMAR -- Starting Jan. 2 it will cost more to ride a Kandiyohi Area Transit bus.

The additional revenue will help offset a $30,000 budget shortfall that was caused by high fuel prices and reduced state revenue for operations expenses.

"We can't go in the hole," said Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dean Shuck, and a member of KAT's joint power's board, which gave final approval to the rate increase on Friday.

The one-way door-to-door service will increase by 25-cents, to $1.50 a ride. That price pertains to rides that are arranged in advance.

Requests for service that are made the same day the rides are given will see a 50 cent increase. Same day service for a one-way, door-to-door ride will be $2.

Passengers will have a financial incentive to walk to bus stops, including the newly completed transfer station in downtown Willmar. Riders who pick up a bus at a designated stop will continue to pay the current $1.25 fee.

If the new fares aren't enough to equalize the increased operations cost then the rate for same-day service should be increased even more, said Kandiyohi County Commissioner Richard Falk, who is also a KAT board member.

Even with the high price of diesel, which is still over $3 a gallon, KAT is continuing to expand its services in Willmar and in other Kandiyohi County communities.

A $75,000 grant was approved this week by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to provide a fixed route for the northwest side of Willmar.

The route will be especially useful for residents who want a quick ride to and from jobs in the industrial park, like Jennie-O. The northwest bus will also bring riders to the transfer station downtown to catch other buses to different parts of town.

The bus is expected to make the route two or three times an hour during the morning and afternoon hours. John Groothuis, KAT transit director, said riders should be able to get from home to work in about 20 minutes. A one-mile extension of County Road 5 through the new industrial park makes the northwest KAT route feasible.

The grant will cover 80 percent of the cost of the new bus and 50 percent of the operations cost. KAT will provide the matching funds. Fares will off-set some of the expense.

Plans for the new northwest route have been in the works for the last year but news of the grant was "hot off the press," said Bev Herfindahl from the department.

The service will get underway sometime in 2009.

A grant has also been approved to purchase a new bus that will be dedicated to provide exclusive service to New London and Spicer.

State funding will cover 80 percent of the purchase price of the bus and 85 percent of the operations cost.

"We're very excited about that," said Groothuis.

The board approved a contract to extend the evening taxi service to six miles from the Willmar city limits, which would include the towns of Pennock and Kandiyohi. With the purchase of a KAT voucher, taxi rides will be provided for $3 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

KAT pays the taxi service a flat fee of $20 an hour, no matter how many rides are provided. KAT keeps the revenue from the $3 vouchers. The service is provided Monday through Friday.

The board referred a proposed personnel policy back to the operations board to take a second look at issues, including the retirement pay-out of sick time and the lack of a step change until 10 years of service had been provided.


Carolyn Lange

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

(320) 894-9750