Roseville ends funding of circulator bus loop, open to future support

Roseville is set to end its financial support of a free weekly bus route aimed at residents of area senior facilities, though council members said they were open to backing it again in the future.

Council members at their Sept. 9 meeting discussed future support of the Roseville Area Circulator Bus route, which the city chose to fund last year as a pilot project alongside the Roseville Community Health Awareness Team, CHAT, and nonprofit transportation company NewTrax.

The city will continue to provide funding through the end of the month for the south Roseville bus loop, which every Tuesday morning connects residents at senior facilities and elsewhere with shopping and civic destinations like the Roseville Library.

City Manager Pat Trudgeon told the council he was recommending to end support of the bus route because the cost per rider for the city — more than $15 through the life of the service — was simply too high. 

“While the number of people we have served is perhaps not a lot, I do know individually it made a lot of impact on people and that certainly should make us feel we have accomplished something,” he said. “You have to balance that, of course, with the cost.”

In 2018 the circulator provided a total of 472 rides — the council decided to begin backing the bus for six months that April — averaging 12 riders a week, according to city documents.

The city and organizations involved sought to boost ridership through getting the word out about the service, a topic that dominated the council discussion about reauthorizing six more months of it late last year.

For 2019, through Sept. 3, city documents say the service provided 501 rides, an average of 14 per week.

Rider contributions and donations from the city’s two Cub Foods, along with cash support from Lyngblomsten senior housing in St. Paul, total about $4,150. The city by the end of the month is expected to have paid just more than $8,000 for the year. For 2018 it contributed $6,700.

Scott Olson, NewTrax community transportation coordinator, thanked the council for the city’s support and said the biggest challenge has been getting the backing of housing management to help get the word out.

Up to 90% of riders any given week are picked up at two buildings, Olson said, one of which is Lyngblomsten. Council member Jason Etten underscored the fact that the housing community isn’t located in Roseville.

Olson said he was seeking support for the Roseville bus loop from local foundations, noting he’d found funding from such sources for loops in Forest Lake, Stillwater and White Bear Lake. 

He also stressed the support given by neighboring Washington and Dakota counties for transportation aimed at people who are underserved — seniors, people with disabilities and folks who face language barriers. Both counties have mobility managers, Olson said, while Ramsey County does not.

Sara Barsel, who’s active with CHAT, reminded the council that the community health group’s precursor group identified transportation and social isolation as significant issues for members of the community. 

“The needs have not gone away,” she said, a point echoed by council members.

Across the board council members said they would be open to reauthorizing city support for the bus circulator route if more funding sources could be found to supplement city cash.

“The strains for the people who are unable to get around our community are only going to increase,” said council member Lisa Laliberte. “So if this isn’t the solution, we’re still going to be talking about this.”

Council members also agree with getting the county in on the discussion.

Olson said in an email following the meeting that NewTrax would look to continue the Roseville bus loop on a month-to-month basis funded by small financial contributions until stable funding is found.

He said he planned to be back at the council’s Sept. 23 meeting to provide an update following meetings with community members and businesses.

 

– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813

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