Coordinator takes on growing SW ND transit serviceDoug Walker was named public transportation coordinator for Dickinson’s public transit program on Jan. 3.
By: By Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Doug Walker was named public transportation coordinator for Dickinson’s public transit program on Jan. 3.
“It’s growing by leaps and bounds — we need to get better control of it,” said Walker. “Just last December to this December, we increased by 36 percent. That’s a lot of rides we’re picking up.”
Public transit recently broke an all-time day record.
“The new record is 261 rides in a day — that’s a lot,” he said.
The public transit program is operated under the auspices of Eldercare.
The program has seen tremendous growth, said Colleen Rodakowski, Eldercare executive director.
“Doug will manage the public transit operations and staff,” she said. “I have worked with Doug in the past and am excited to be working with him again. Doug’s leadership and experience are great assets for Eldercare. With our tremendous growth in public transit, I look forward to Doug taking the service to a higher level of operation.”
Eldercare is trying to give public transit more of its own identity, said Walker.
“This is the first year the public transit number is listed under taxi in the phone book,” he said. “Before, it’s always been Eldercare and now people are finding us better.”
He said the public transit’s hours are Sunday through Thursday from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 6:45 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
“We try to pick up people as fast as we can and we have 24 hour service to the airport,” he said.
Public transit makes trips to Bismarck on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We try to stress that people bring a book — you’re not going by yourself,” he said. “Other people might have appointments and you can expect it to be a full day there.”
Scheduled service also is provided to communities surrounding Dickinson.
Walker said public transit is seeing an increase of people coming to and from work.
“Before I came here, I never really thought about it,” he said. “If you have a family and are thinking of buying a second car and looking at payments, how much money are you spending on transportation? It’s cheaper to run transit.”
Walker lived in Medora for 13 years prior to coming to Dickinson two years ago.
“Something I’ve learned in this position, is the weather can really hamper our ability to give quality service,” he said. “We aim at getting people on time and picking people up on time, but with snowy and icy roads, our No. 1 concern is the safety of our drivers, vehicles and costumers. We have to slow down for that — people sometimes forget about that.”
Another thing, he said, is that people need to be on time for their pick-up.
“Our drivers will wait five minutes, but if they have to start waiting longer, then that really backs up the whole system really fast.”
Because public transit transfers people in wheelchairs, another concern is clean sidewalks.
“It’s real important they get their walks clean,” he said. “It’s next to impossible four our drivers to move wheelchairs when the sidewalks aren’t clean.
Public transit has five buses and five vans that are staggered in and out as transportation needs are required.
Walker coordinates their schedules, and monitors each vehicle’s GPS location from his computer.
“We have a lot of prescheduled rides for the next day, so the system sorts through the data and puts together routes in the most efficient way,” he said. “This way, we can see where all our vehicles are at right now. Green means on time, blue means early for the most part of the time.”
Being new to the position, Walker said it’s an opportunity to learn as the program grows.
“We need to work with the dispatchers and drivers on the growth and vehicles, he said.
The challenge is to keep updated with vehicles.
“We need new vehicles — a lot of them are with high mileage,” he said. “We have one vehicle — a van on its way.”
To schedule a ride, call 701-483-6564.