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New Regional Fixed Route Bus Service In The Works for North Central Kansas


Salina, Kansas – A new regional fixed route bus service will be in operation in early September 2017 for north central Kansas.

The Kansas Rides 81 Connection will serve Highway 81 locations from Belleville to Salina with a tentative start date of September 5, 2017.

The 81 Connection bus service will have three bi-directional trips each day, Monday through Friday. The first route will start in Belleville at 7:00 a.m., then head south on Highway 81 to three stops in Concordia, a stop at the Highway 24/Highway 81 junction, two stops in Minneapolis and a stop at 7th and Walnut in Salina and then head back to north to the same stops. This route will do this loop twice and finish in Belleville around 6:15 p.m. each day.

A second route will leave Salina at 1:00 p.m. and head north on Highway 81 to the same two stops in Minneapolis, the stop at the Highway 24/Highway 81 junction, three stops in Concordia and the stop in Belleville, before heading back to Salina with the same stops. The bus will finish in Salina around 6:15 p.m. each day.

The 81 Connection will be operated and managed by OCCK Transportation.

Transportation providers in the region, such as Solomon Valley Transportation, Inc. and Ottawa County Transportation, in addition to OCCK Transportation, will be able to run feeder routes that will bring passengers to and from the stops. The proposed service area would include Republic, Jewell, Cloud, Mitchell, Ottawa, Lincoln and Saline counties. Additional riders could be brought in from Washington, Clay, Smith and Osborne counties with additional coordination. Passengers will come from many age groups and different socio-economic levels and need bus service for employment, medical appointments, social services, shopping, recreation and other needs.

“We are really excited about starting the 81 Connection,” said Michelle Griffin, Mobility Manager for the region. “This regional fixed route has been in process for quite a while as a goal for the region and now we are bringing the route to fruition. It will be a great benefit to the residents of north central Kansas and help them get where they need to go.”

Initial funding for the project came from the Earl Bane Foundation, as well as the Kansas Department of Transportation. The Earl Bane Foundation provided the 30% local match for the first year, with the remaining 70% funding coming from KDOT.

The one-way fares will be as follows:

- Belleville to Concordia - $1.00
- Concordia to 81/24 Junction - $1.00
- 81-24 Junction to Minneapolis - $1.00
- Minneapolis to Salina - $1.00

Kansas Rides is the name of the statewide transportation branding and website (www.ksrides.org) that came about from the KDOT Regional Transit Business Model Implementation project. The primary purpose of the Business Model is to develop strategies for the provision of transit services throughout rural Kansas that make the most efficient use of additional transit funding made available by the state legislature as part of the Transportation Works for Kansas (T-WORKS) transportation program, which was signed into law in May of 2010.

The Kansas Rides website (www.ksrides.org) is in progress and will be continued to be updated with information about all general public transportation agencies across all 105 Kansas counties. It will be the source for consumers to find information about transportation options in their areas.

“We’re very pleased with the new website and trust the public will be to,” said Griffin. “We hope it provides users with a positive and informative channel through which they can learn more about transportation options across the state, including the 81 Connection, and how we can help them improve their public transit experience.”

The 81 Connection will complement the existing public transportation options in North Central Kansas and provide a way for more people, across all age levels and socioeconomic levels, with transportation limitations, to be served. We anticipate the riders will access medical care, employment, social service agencies, education, recreation, shopping and other destinations to improve their quality of life.

This intra-regional route will improve and establish inter-city connections to regional centers and preserve in-town transit service. In-town providers will be able to provide more local rides to their clients and provide more service in their communities. Destinations along the route will also experience increased economic benefit from more travelers. Employment options will increase, for both employers and prospective employees as one barrier is decreased. Physical and mental health and the overall well being of individuals will improve with increased access to necessary and important services. Health care providers will have less missed appointments and more service opportunities. Educational facilities could help to market the cost savings benefits of service to their prospective students as a way of helping to counteract the increasing costs of higher education.

With the support of the Kansas Department of Transportation, the North Central Kansas Coordinated Transit Council, Inc. is looking at a new approach to rural transit program management and operations. Historically, the nearly 200 rural transit providers across the state have planned and operated services independently, which in some locations has resulted in redundant service and/or missed opportunities for providing service to those without access. This new approach of coordinated transit service will allow more people in the state to have access to some level of transit service, improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the public and private investments in transit an reduce the gaps and redundancies observed in the current approach to providing service.

This fixed route will be the first step in increased coordination among transportation providers in this region, and across the state. Success with the fixed route can lead to new conversations about providing additional transportation options that span many counties, many other existing general public transportation providers, and improve the lives of Kansans across the state. Additional fixed routes can be added to serve residents that need to access additional services in Hays, Wichita, Topeka, or even Kansas City.

By providing this additional access to necessary services, the rural counties served will have another incentive for keeping people living in their communities. Declining populations are a concern for many of the counties served by this fixed route. By having additional transportation options in place, residents will be encouraged to stay and the bus service can be an incentive to potential new residents and businesses. Economic development and local chambers of commerce can be potential partners. Families could save money on transportation costs by using more accessible and public transportation versus owning multiple vehicles. There are also environmental and safety benefits to having less vehicles on the roads. Public transportation reduces driving stress and keeps the air cleaner.

Investment in our transportation infrastructure, particularly public transportation, drives growth. It attracts development and increased property values. It connects restaurants to diners, landlords to renters, families to stores and employers to employees. Robust investment in transportation yields results. Transportation = freedom.

For more information about the 81 Connection and Kansas Rides, visit www.ksrides.org. For more information about OCCK, Inc., visitwww.occk.com. For more information about CityGo and OCCK Transportation, visit www.salinacitygo.com. Or, contact Michelle Griffin, Mobility Manager (mgriffin@occk.com), or the OCCK Transportation Center at 785-826-1583.

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