The Elder Care/Dickinson Public Transport provided the Dickinson City Commission this week with an annual report, emphasizing the need for full- and part-time drivers as well as elder care meal deliverers.

Executive Director Colleen Rodakowski for Elder Care/Dickinson Public Transit presented a PowerPoint slideshow to the commission Tuesday, July 20, at City Hall.

Before COVID-19 halted North Dakota and daily routines/services, Dickinson Public Transit was breaking records at almost 4,000 trips a month. In 2019, a total of 42,251 trips and 45,191 were reported. However, 2020 took a dip with 34,456 trips and 36,396 passengers.

“When everything hit with COVID, we were tremendously impacted. And once COVID hit, a lot of medical appointments were scaled down and done over Zoom or (through a) phone call,” Rodakowski added.

The transportation system reduces traffic congestion, alleviates parking demands and keeps community members independent and increases their quality of life, Rodakowski said.

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“Dickinson Public Transit is totally essential for our community. It’s good for our well-being. We take people of all types in our community; we transport them to places they need to be in our town,” Rodakowski said. “We contribute to the overall economic vitality of the Dickinson community.”

The agency works to meet the changing transit needs of the city and surrounding area. The transportation system provides transit services to the general public and lends itself to improving people’s quality of life by providing freedom of mobility to the residents of Dickinson, Rodakowski noted.

“Why do we need Dickinson Public Transit? We are the only transit agency in the town that offers wheelchair rides as well as Sanford Health care and Medicaid payments,” she said.

Besides employment being the number one ride, the Dickinson Public Transit is utilized for shopping, medical, social events and educational opportunities. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, shopping increased heavily compared to other years from 2019’s report of 5,928 trips to 6,687 trips in 2020.

Some of the challenges faced during the coronavirus pandemic included maintaining meal programs due to changes in staffing, keeping and hiring home delivered meals carriers and volunteers and hiring staff committed to the transportation system’s services.

In 2020, Elder Care/Dickinson Public Transit brought in a total income of approximately $1.2 million. The agency was able to remain open with regular hours of operation, established practices to keep vehicles, staff and riders safe and applied for replacement vehicles. Rodakowski noted that over the past 10 years, the agency has opened its services to more than just elderly and disabled individuals, serving the entire public of Dickinson.

Currently, the agency remains under a mask mandate. The Transportation Security Administration is looking at possibly eliminating the mask requirement on Sept. 13, but that date is still tentative.