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Wheels & Meals adding rural route to its transit program

Beginning August 4th, residents of rural Kenmare and communities to the northwest will have access to door-to-door public transportation.

7/20/11 (Wed)


Beginning August 4th, residents of rural Kenmare and communities to the northwest will have access to door-to-door public transportation.


Kenmare Wheels & Meals is expanding their transit program to include a rural route that will operate every Thursday, as long as riders are scheduled for the bus. The service is available to persons of any age.


“It’s for kids, it’s for adults, it’s for anybody,” said Linda Freeman, director of Kenmare Wheels & Meals. “Once they get here, we’ll get them to the door of where they’re going.”


The first pick-up for the Thursday route will take place for Flaxton-area residents beginning at 9 am, with stops in and around Bowbells as necessary. The return trip will leave Kenmare at 2 pm, with a round-trip ticket price of $6.00.


Once in Kenmare, passengers will be delivered to the Kenmare Wheels & Meals office, where they can meet friends or family, or ride the local transit service with unlimited stops around town for $1.50. The service can be used to accommodate several purposes, including medical appointments, visits to the Baptist Home or Kenmare Community Hospital, grocery and gift shopping, lunch dates with friends or relatives and even trips to the swimming pool or Kenmare Branch Library.


On the first and third Tuesdays of each month, Williston Transit runs a route from Williston through Portal on to Minot that will now include a stop in Kenmare. That service arrives in Kenmare about 9 am and leaves Kenmare around 3 pm, for a $6.00 round-trip bus fare. The bus stops at Kenmare Wheels & Meals both times, giving passengers access to the local transit service with unlimited rides for $1.50.


Between the Kenmare Wheels & Meals transit service and the Williston Transit route, all the office hours of the optometrist, dentist, chiropractor and clinic in Kenmare are covered for patients.


“Our focus was to get people from up north to be able to stop in Kenmare and have transportation while they’re here,” Freeman said. “When the passengers come here, they’ll give us their schedule for the day. I think it’s going to work out well.”


While passengers can make their round trip from home and back on the same day, Freeman said the routes open up other options as well, including early morning rides from Kenmare to Flaxton and Bowbells on Thursday mornings and return trips during the afternoon run. “Someone could even go up on a Thursday with our vehicle and come back on a Tuesday with the Williston Transit bus,” she said. “For kids who want to visit their grandparents, what a perfect way to get there!”


Freeman said Souris Basin Transportation had served the Kenmare area, but in July the opportunity became available for the Kenmare and Williston public transit services to coordinate their efforts to expand transportation to the rural areas. “Our ultimate goal is to see Kenmare as a destination for people,” Freeman said. “The Williston Transit service was very open to cooperating with us.”


She continued, “If we don’t have reservations for a Thursday, we won’t do the run. We hope the people use the service because if they don’t, we won’t be able to continue it. If they do, it will become a solid, constant service.”


Freeman said many local residents were slow to use public transportation, but the demand for the Kenmare Transit services in town has increased dramatically in recent months. “People seem to think it isn’t as convenient until they try it,” she said. “But when people come to this area from a larger city, [public transportation] is one of the first things they ask about.”


Freeman expects to keep the ticket prices for all transit services low, thanks in part to federal transit dollars and state-matched funds in the North Dakota Department of Transportation budget. Freeman obtains a small amount of funding through the Ward County senior mill, while Kenmare Veteran’s Club, Inc., has been generous about donating to the Wheels & Meals special transit projects.


“Transit is pretty well funded and the NDDOT Transit Division has encouraged us to do this,” she said, “because they want to see more rural transit.”


And “rural transit” means exactly that in this case. “We will go out in the country as long as the road is passable,” said Freeman. “We’ll do pickups off the highway.”


The Flaxton-Bowbells-Kenmare route has been established, but Freeman said the route could be changed if potential passengers from Lignite and/or Powers Lake requested the service to Kenmare, too.


Lindsay Mickelsen, who also provides home care under the Kenmare Wheels & Meals Home Care Deal, will drive the Thursday route. She is in the process of being trained and will continue her home care services as she arranges her Thursday appointments around her driving schedule.


Kenmare Transit driver Angela Jones will continue delivering her passengers around town. “She’s busy,” Freeman said. “She doesn’t have time to do that other run!”


Kenmare Transit offers rides during its regular schedule on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9 am and 4 pm. Rides are available Tuesdays and Fridays between 9 am and 2 pm.


All vehicles used for the local and rural routes are handicapped-accessible.


Freeman was excited about the potential benefits of the expanded rural transit service for the passengers and for Kenmare businesses and health care providers. “We need to keep an open mind, to see how much service we can run,” she said. “It’s a need that will grow.”


Reservations with names and street addresses are required for the Tuesday and Thursday bus rides. Local residents should call 385-4364 to reserve their tickets, while other passengers can call toll-free 1-877-385-4364. Any reservations for the Williston Transit route on Tuesdays will be coordinated between the Kenmare and Williston offices.


Ticket reservations for either transit service must be made by 2 pm at least one day prior to the scheduled ride.