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Hastings to get new community transportation service

DARTS and Hastings community partners have teamed up to accommodate Hastings residents with a new community transportation service that will allow residents without cars to have a reliable and convenient service.

In an effort to create a transportation plan that will help everyone, an advisory board that consists of a variety of members from different organizations compiled a survey that be crucial to establishing a final plan.

“There’s like 26 people at the table who represent a real good cross section of the demographics that serve Hastings,” DARTS Director of Transportation Courtney Whited said, “and so what we’ve decided is put together just a simple eight question survey to kind of guide us on what would be the look like, the first pilot of this service and then hopefully it’s successful and grow it from there.”

While Whited said transportation in Hastings is not a problem, this service will help residents without consistent transportation to travel the city easier.

“It’s (Hastings transportation) no different than anywhere else in the metro or lots of different places and so it would seem if you were to look at a phone book that you have a variety of choices but yet, different demographics of people are saying, ‘I’m still not being able to connect A to B,’” she said.

According to Whited, funding for the program comes from a variety of places. So far, $10,000 has been secured from the City of Hastings and DARTS was awarded a grant from the St. Paul Foundation, where a portion of the award will go towards training and marketing purposes.

“We are currently seeking another $10,000 total in funds to cover the total cost of $20,000 to cover the annual operating costs for this once a week transportation service,” Whited said in an email. “If we receive funds above and beyond the total of $20,000, we would use those to increase either the service hours on the day of service or provide service on another day in addition.”

Survey results

In just under three weeks, the survey received responses from 247 people. Both available online and in paper form, the survey was promoted by word of mouth and through different community organizations and members to help ensure enough responses for a wide range of demographics.

Respondents ranged from age 10 to over 95.

The eight questions on the survey covered common fields such as the interest in having such a service, what destinations should be included, preferred fare costs and more.

When asked if themselves or someone close to them would be interested in using such a service, 88 percent of participants said yes.

Top preferred destinations included shopping areas, medical and dental clinics and recreational activities. Other places on the list were educational classes, senior center, workplace, faith community, library, social service agency and the Hastings Veterans Home.

When it came to cost, 71 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay $3 for a one-way ride on the new service.

Based on the survey, the board will now have to make decisions such as what day and time the bus will run as well as finalize fare costs depending on funding.

Whited said she hopes to help the community members with an accessible community service and she thanks all respondents for participating.

The program is scheduled to begin in late August or early September.