LEXINGTON – Approximately 40 people filled the Dawson County Commissioners board room Friday as the commissioners looked to provide a clearer path for the future of the county’s public transportation system.
The public hearing regarding the agenda item was split into two different categories, the first being possible raises in fare prices and the second being whether or not the county would continue to spearhead the endeavor or turn administration duties over to Ryde, which provides transportation to six different counties.
The discussion was part of the regular Dawson County Board of Commissioners’ meeting.
Commissioner Dennis Rickertsen set the perimeters of the public hearing by splitting it into two different topics under the same agenda item.
Up first were the possible increases in the fare being charged to riders of the Dawson County Transit Bus.
Fare increases would be necessary in order for the transit bus to keep getting matching funds from federal and state government entities. To keep those grants from dissipating, the transit bus would have to make 10 percent of its operating cost in fares on a monthly basis.
The fare increase would be one dollar each time a rider boards the bus. Right now, just for Lexington residents, the fee is $2, which includes any stops they happen to have throughout the day.
With the new change riders would have to pay a dollar every time they get back on the bus. In other words, if the bus makes two stops in Lexington and a rider gets off at both stops, that rider would have to pay a dollar per stop if he or she left the bus and wanted to get back on.
Diane Adams of the Lexington Housing Authority and Ann Luther with the City of Lexington, cautioned the commissioners about raising costs of fares on the elderly.
“Is there any way to charge less for the elderly and handicapped who use this service?” Adams asked. “They have a limited income.”
Ed Butler a representative with Ryde said that a scenario like that just doesn’t work.
“You can’t have a charge disparity,” he said. “Public transportation is for the public. You can’t charge one group more or less than another.”
In the second part of the hearing the commissioners looked at the possibility of turning over the administrative function of the transit bus to Ryde.
Rickertsen made it clear that employees currently working for the transit bus would not be laid off or lose their time with the county, but if the county would chose to go that route, those employees could make the choice to work for Ryde or not work for them.
Butler said if the county were to go with Ryde that is would make sense.
“Together we are stronger,” Butler said. “By centralizing everything we can control the costs.”
If the county were to go with Ryde, the transit bus system would be a collective group with Ryde, which already provides public transportation for Buffalo, Gosper and several other counties and communities.
It would make sence for the transit bus, because instead of having to hit 10 percent each month, it would be a part of a collective effort where Ryde as a whole has to hit 10 percent.
After the hearing was closed, the commissioners voted to raise the fare price to a dollar. That motion carried unanimously. No action was taken on a partnership with Ryde, as the commissioners look to delve into the topic more in the future.
The most likely time for further review of the Ryde partnership would be just before the new fiscal year in July.
by David Penner C-H editor