Transit plan finds new route

September 20, 2018

A city’s transit plan seems to be veering back on toward its original after the Rochester City Council faced the need to apply the brakes due to limited funding.

“The state of Minnesota has stepped forward and ... official word came through and the state will up our base, which takes us to a different level,” City Administrator Steve Rymer.

Tony Knauer, the city’s parking and transit manager, said that funding increase takes brings the state support for the city’s bus service from $5.4 million to $7.3 million for 2019.

Rymer said the added funding would allow the city to renumber bus routes and add new routes as early as July.

“The council now can decide, if you like, whether to add some of the additional geographic coverage in there, with no additional funding from tax levy support for next year,” he said.

Rymer noted the delay stemmed from how state funding is provided and the timing of funding notifications. The administration’s budget recommendation was created using past state funding levels, since future changes are uncertain until finalized.

Knauer said the opportunity to expand the service to new areas will help set the stage for future state funding growth, which is anticipated to provide more frequency on some routes in the following year.

“It creates our base of 2020,” he said.

The city is already planning to expand some service this year, shooting for a crosstown loop between Rochester Community and Technical College and the Northwest Park and Ride with trips at 7-minute increments.

“That will take care of the problem with overcrowding (of buses),” Knauer said of the added service, noting the option is made possible by through state funding and a 20 percent local match that is being funded through bus fares.

Rymer noted use of the transit service continues to grow, even with some budget caution.

“We are on pace to exceed 2 million onboarding for the first time this year,” he said, noting it’s a 25 percent increase since 2015.

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