Public Transit having trouble making ends meetAn increase in population and ridership may force Dickinson Public Transit to make some tough decisions.
By: Lisa Miller, The Dickinson Press
An increase in population and ridership may force Dickinson Public Transit to make some tough decisions.
If the business does not get additional funding it may have to raise rates or cut services, Director of Dickinson Public Transit Colleen Rodakowski said at a recent meeting. Dickinson commissioners suggested raising rates or working with hotels to accommodate airport rides, though no action was taken. Public Transit intends to request money from the city at a future meeting.
“Despite the increase in ridership, more funding is needed because we are subsidized," Rodakowski said.
The Department of Transportation subsidizes 50 percent, the city subsidy is 8 percent and a portion of Dickinson sales tax supports services for the elderly, Rodakowski said. She added, the $3 (scheduled) and $6 (on demand taxi) charges for one-way trips within city limits do not cover the $615,000 a year it costs to operate the service.
Vehicles cost between $40,000 and $50,000 and gas costs more than $9,000 a month, plus Public Transit has to pay employees and other bills, Rodakowski said.
“Raising rates or cutting service is not something we want to do but we may not have a choice if we don’t get additional support,” Rodakowski said.
Public Transit is essential to the people ABLE Inc. serves, ABLE Director of Community and Day Support Connie Kralicek said.
“Not having a driver’s license or people to drive them (people who ABLE serves) to medical appointments, their jobs, the grocery store or bank can be quite debilitating,” Kralicek said. “I don’t know what they’d do without Public Transit.”
Rodakowski said additional funding is needed to increase salaries and help with fuel expenses.
“We need more drivers to keep up with demand and retain the employees we do have,” she said.
From 2008 to 2010, the number of trips went from 24,357 to 45,989 and passengers from 25,259 to 50,115, according to Dickinson Commission records.
Dispatcher Vi Heinle estimates the business turns down 10 rides a week because there aren’t enough drivers available.
Public transit has had to do a lot of apologizing but most people understand, driver Joe Berger said.
“We just do the best we can with what we have.”
Besides demand, Public Transit has had to turn down rides due to traffic congestion, Berger said. “It takes more time to get around and sometimes forces us to take alternative routes and it’s hard to stay on schedule.”