People’s Transit Needs Long Term Community Support to Keep Rolling

For 42 years, People’s Transit has provided dependable, low-cost transportation in the Huron area. Children, the elderly and the disabled are among the many members of the community who depend on the buses to get them to school and daycare, doctors appointments, grocery shopping and a variety of other destinations. But this vital service comes at an ever increasing cost to the provider, and recently People’s Transit has been asking the community for assistance.

In April, People’s Transit launched it’s “Rooster Up for Transit” fundraising effort to help offset the costs of running its operations. Brett Tschetter, who works for River Cities Transit in Pierre, the company that manages People’s Transit and other transportation services in communities across the state, including Eagle Butte, Yankton, Philip, Wall and Midland, says the campaign has been successful. However, he says more will be needed in the future to maintain operations in Huron.

“We have really never asked Huron for help before. The immediate need has been met through a combination of support from the city, the county, the business community and the public. What we are looking for now is long-term support. We need more monthly contracts and more people committed to supporting public transit.”

Paradoxically, Tschetter says that the reason People Transit is struggling in Huron is because more people are using the service. Fares range from $2.75 for a pre-scheduled ride to $6.00 for a same day ride. Riders over sixty are asked to donate a dollar. These fares are not sufficient to cover People’s Transit’s costs.

“Unlike most businesses, where you make more money as more people buy your product or come through your door, when more people are using our services, our costs increase. The fares that we charge riders only pays for about 20% of what that ride actually costs ; we have to pay the driver and we have to cover the insurance and the fuel. We have to make up the 80% that the fares don’t cover.”

“Typically, transit companies across the nation are subsidized by the Federal Transit Administration . But, they need to see local support before they will offer those funds.”

Eventually, People’s Transit would like to extend its service hours, particularly during the weekend. Tschetter says other communities in the state are able to support 24/7 service and he would like to see Huron get to that point as well.

“We don’t want to have to cut services, in fact, we want to grow. For example, we would like to offer extended hours, especially during Pheasant season and the weekends. The Beadle County Commission has been behind the idea. The cost of prosecuting a DUI is money better spent on a safe transportation alternative. But offering those expanded hours has to be financially feasible for People’s Transit.”

Tschetter says he is grateful for Huron’s past and current support. People’s Transit is the largest recipient of United Way funds and Tschetter says that support has been invaluable. Contracts with area healthcare facilities and assisted living centers also help the service remain viable. People’s Transit currently runs 10 buses per day with a staff of 21 employees.

Individuals can make donations to People’s Transit by calling 353-0100 or visit Donations envelopes are available in People’s Transit’s buses, at the Chamber and supporting businesses in Huron.

Shawn Martin

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