Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Without a personal vehicle, traversing the Oil Patch is tricky

Traveling around the Oil Patch without a personal vehicle is tricky -- and expensive. In Dickinson, there are multi-city buses that stop and visit other cities along Interstate 94. There are four inbound and outbound commercial flights daily betw...


Traveling around the Oil Patch without a personal vehicle is tricky -- and expensive.

In Dickinson, there are multi-city buses that stop and visit other cities along Interstate 94. There are four inbound and outbound commercial flights daily between the Queen City and Denver.

But if you're looking to get around town

or to visit a smaller town nearby, the best

and cheapest option is to have your own transportation.


There are taxis and buses available through Public Transit in Dickinson, A&C Services, The Hat Taxi Service and Airport Express Shuttle, to name a few.

Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport is five miles south of Dickinson off Highway 22 and buses pick-up and drop-off in west Dickinson on Villard Street.

Although vehicle rental remains an option and is available in town for less than $100 per day plus fuel, dropping the automobile off at another location dramatically increases the price.


It is suggested in "Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future" that establishing a fixed-route bus system could be a possible option within the city.

"To me, with the support of the city, I think it could be a viable option in the next couple years," said Colleen Rodakowski, executive director of Public Transit in Dickinson. "It's something that I would like to be a part of -- of introducing to the city."

The agency has begun looking into a survey to determine the practicality of a fixed-route system in the city, she said.

"We actually are going ahead with something like that where my projects coordinator just drafted a survey to review that we could maybe get out into the community to find their thoughts," Rodakowski said.


Bismarck-Mandan's fixed-route bus system is less than a decade old and took planning and investment to get up and running, Bis-Man Transit executive director Robin Werre said.

"It took time to just get the equipment and also planning for it financially," she said. "It's not something we just could do overnight."

There are 12 routes in Bismarck that operate on loops for efficiency, Werre said.

When drawing routes, Werre sat down with a consultant and figured out where the buses would be most utilized. This included major retail corridors, schools, medical care and low-income neighborhoods.

"We stay out of high-income areas because they're not going to ride the bus," she said.

Bismarck is considered an urban area and works directly with the federal government to study the transportation needs of the city, Werre said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation distributes federal transportation dollars to rural communities, such as Dickinson, NDDOT Local Government Engineer Paul Benning said.

"We provide the federal aid and then they put together a rural transit provider system," he said. "If they want to provide a fixed-route system inside the city of Dickinson, we have been able to provide them with some source of federal aid to do a transit and mobility study."



In 2008, Congress authorized Amtrak to look into reopening closed routes, which initiated buzz that the North Coast Hiawatha that ran through the southern half of North Dakota between Chicago and Seattle could reopen, media relations manager Marc Magliari said. Since then, it has not authorized any funding or other initiatives to upgrade old lines.

North Dakota could reopen a portion of that line, under 750 miles, through the same act, he said.

"Congress could decide or the states could decide, but we've had no direction from either one to proceed," Magliari said.

The closest Amtrak depots to Dickinson are in Williston, 132 miles away, and Stanley, 127 miles away.

Amtrak has been highly utilized in the Oil Patch, with boardings and alightings in Williston and Stanley increasing from 2010 to 2011 (the last year for which data was available) even though there was a 10.6 percent decrease in ridership throughout the state. The Williston station saw almost 30,000 passengers in 2011, the most of any city in North Dakota that year.

Public Transit

Public Transit in Dickinson tries to limit trips to just outside the city limits, but does twice-weekly trips to Bismarck and will go further if a driver is available, Rodakowski said.


"It's hard for us to do the out-of-town trips because it takes the driver away so long," she said. "We have such a need in the community."

Ridership has steadily increased in Bismarck, but there are still people who refuse to give up their cars, Werre said.

"Unless there's some dire need that they don't have a car or some way to get there, they're not going to change their habits and not drive," she said. "I have a marketing director, that's all she does."

Without the study, it's hard to know how Dickinson would react to a bus system, but the agency does about 4,000 trips per month, Rodakowski said.

"The staff really appreciates the community and helping the community get around," she said.

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