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MnDOT grant to help CCT expand bus routes

WILLMAR — Central Community Transit will expand three routes this year — two in Litchfield and one in Kandiyohi County — to better meet the needs of its riders.

The move is made possible by a $298,000 grant awarded last week by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Central Community Transit is among 23 transit providers to receive funds under a push by MnDOT to increase transit services across rural Minnesota. The transit system provides services in Kandiyohi, Meeker and Renville counties.

All three routes that CCT plans to add will help make the bus service more accessible and more convenient for riders, said Tiffany Collins, transit director.

"It is exciting news," she said.

One of the new routes will be a full-time, fixed route in Litchfield, operating during the day Monday through Friday. Transit service in Meeker County currently is dial-a-ride; the new route will enable riders to catch the bus at designated stops throughout the day.

"It gives users a little bit more flexibility. They can ride the bus without having to make that phone call," Collins said.

Central Community Transit operates similar fixed routes in Kandiyohi County and they've been well used, she said. "We know that they work."

The second new route, also in Litchfield, will extend bus transportation into the evening five nights a week.

The route expansion in Kandiyohi County will extend weekday service from Willmar to New London and Spicer into the late afternoon.

The MnDOT grant also will enable Central Community Transit to buy a new bus to add to its fleet.

The target date for starting the three new routes is July 1, Collins said. "The work now will begin to make sure we have staff in place so we can get those hours out on the road," she said.

Operation for the first two years will be fully funded by the MnDOT grant. If the new routes are successful and demand is there, CCT can seek local share dollars to keep them going.

All three of the new routes address unmet needs identified through rider surveys and feedback from businesses and the community, Collins said.

The MnDOT transit grants collectively totaled $23.7 million. According to MnDOT, transit ridership in rural Minnesota grew 12.6 percent between 2010 and 2014.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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