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KAT prepares for new fixed route for workers

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi Area Transit is preparing to launch a new bus route that is designed to get workers to work on time -- and then take them back home.

KAT was awarded federal funding to initiate the Job Access and Reverse Commute program in Willmar. It will serve primarily the west side of town, transporting residents there to jobs in the Industrial Park.

The funding includes 80 percent of the $65,000 cost of a new bus, 50 percent of the operational costs and $5,000 for benches that will be placed at various locations along the route.

The program funds transportation projects designed to help low-income individuals access to employment and related activities where existing transit is unavailable, inappropriate or insufficient, according to the Federal Transit Administration's Web site.

The KAT bus will run at set times that will coordinate with the start times of jobs at businesses such as Jennie-O Turkey Store, Willmar Poultry and Molenaar Inc., said Tiffany Collins, KAT transit director.

Collins told the KAT Joint Powers Board on Friday that she's been working with those businesses to coordinate the bus schedule with the shift changes, and is seeking input from other businesses in the park that have employees that would benefit from public transportation.

The bus will likely have set routes in the morning and afternoon.

The new bus is expected to arrive in the next couple weeks, and the driver has been hired and is currently being trained. Collins said the route could be started yet this month. It's expected to generate about $6,000 a year in revenue through bus fares.

Collins said the city of Willmar will be working with KAT to find proper locations for the benches. The city will also do the necessary cement work for the benches.

Collins also told the board that KAT will be receiving its 2010 bus a year early because of federal stimulus funding. But instead of paying the usual 20 percent cost-share, 100 percent of the cost of this bus will be paid with federal money.

That will help KAT's budget for years to come, said Collins.

Although KAT will be receiving three new buses this year, only two old buses will be sold this fall. Collins said the third will be kept as a backup for additional large group trips and in case there's a breakdown with a bus in the operational fleet. Because there isn't enough garage space, the older bus will be stored outdoors.

Carolyn Lange

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

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