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First round of ‘Joyride’ gets positive response

WILLMAR — Last Saturday six tourists who were staying at an area resort who decided to have a night out at Zorbaz in Spicer took advantage of a new sober ride program and were brought safely back to their cabin.

“They were so excited to have this service,” said Stephanie Felt, coordinator for the Kandiyohi County Safe Community Coalition. “We’ve had lots of positive feedback.”

Felt is more than pleased with the response and number of riders during the first weekend that the “Joyride” was launched.

“Six is exciting,” said Felt. “We consider this a success.”

The Joyride bus, which carries the tagline “good times delivered,” will be back at select bars/restaurants in Spicer and Willmar again this weekend, offering rides today and Saturday for $7 a person.

The plan is to run the bus through Labor Day.

Felt said they wanted to get a couple test rides under their belt before the July 4 activities in Spicer, when the bus will also be available starting Thursday when the street dance will be held.

Based on the attention, questions and positive comments the bus driver received last weekend from bar-goers who saw the bus in the parking lot, Felt said she hopes the number of riders keeps growing.

The program is a partnership of the coalition and Kandiyohi Area Transit, along with financial support from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office, Madison Bottling and Bernick’s Beverages and Vending as well as the participating establishments.

“We’ve had very positive feedback on the concept of running the service and a lot of questions on how they can use it,” said KAT Transit Director Tiffany Collins.

The current schedule includes a stop at the VFW in Willmar at 11:30 p.m.; Spicer American Legion at midnight; O’Neil’s at 1 a.m. and Zorbaz at 2 a.m.

The Spicer Legion and O’Neil’s transportation area will mainly be a six-mile radius around Spicer, which includes the area around Green Lake as well as into New London.

The Zorbaz pickup will run back to Willmar.

The Oaks in Willmar is a participating establishment by special request and for special events.

Felt said the bus will take people from one establishment to another but each rider must buy a $7 ticket for each leg of the trip. Knowing that people will get there one way or another, she said they would “rather get them there safely than impaired.”

The $7 bus passes can be purchased at the bars.

The price is cheap compared to the estimated $20,000 that Felt said many first-time offenders of the law against driving while impaired will shell out in fines, fees, insurance and lost wages.

There have already been requests to take people home to destinations outside the current zone. Riders even offered the driver more money to take them further, said Felt.

Collins said this summer will be an opportunity to learn how far the bus can go to accommodate riders’ requests and still get to the different bars at closing time.

If those requests continue, and if there’s adequate funding, the program could be expanded.

“These programs kind of evolve into whatever the community needs them to be,” said Felt. “We’re glad we’re getting such positive feedback.”

Felt said safety is the main reason for program, with some communities reporting a 50 percent reduction in DWI arrests after offering sober rides home. But she said the Joyride can be a “fun” and “easy” option for patrons and can be an economic boost by making bars and restaurants more easily accessible.

Carolyn Lange

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

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