Letter to the editor: Public transportation necessary in rural areasWhen we think about public transportation in North Dakota, buses in Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks quickly come to mind. Outside of these metro areas, there is a complex, almost hidden, network of public transit of more than 25 providers which are vital to rural communities.
By: Bryan McCoy, The Jamestown Sun
When we think about public transportation in North Dakota, buses in Fargo, Bismarck and Grand Forks quickly come to mind. Outside of these metro areas, there is a complex, almost hidden, network of public transit of more than 25 providers which are vital to rural communities. In some communities, one dollar per ride allows individuals without personal transportation to access medical facilities, shopping, community centers and job sites they would otherwise be unable to access. Rural passengers can ride to Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks or even Aberdeen to reach advanced medical care, increased shopping choices, and meeting up with family or friends for just a few more dollars.
Although the majority of rural public transportation is administered by senior citizen centers, the service is available for everyone to use. In Carrington, public transit shuttles students, who are unable to drive, to and from school to places of employment. The Harvey bus transports mentally disabled individuals from their home to a vocational center for occupational training or gainful employment. Citizens in Oakes will ride to avoid missing work in the event of car troubles or unreliable personal transportation. Kidder County Transit brings people to Bismarck and where they can continue onward to work in the oil fields. Residents in Cooperstown or Valley City can get to Fargo to catch a flight or visit family for the weekend.
A majority of rural cities lack any alternatives to public transit, making the system even more important to the community and people. It is no secret that rural areas are experiencing a population decline. Rural public transit allows individuals to stay in their communities instead of relocating to a larger city. Public transit allows senior citizens to remain in their homes and actively participate in their communities. Most importantly, it gives people without vehicles the ability to socialize and live their lives with minimal disruption. These systems function thanks to the hard work of small, professional, dedicated staff and volunteers who refuse to allow this essential service to disappear.
Many rural providers operate on slim budgets and must come up with new and creative ways to keep fares low, while costs continue to rise. The next time you overhear someone discuss cutting funding for rural transit, think about the following for a minute: How will impact the elderly trying to reach the senior center for their only hot meal every day? How will the disabled, unable to drive, reach their employers for both a source of income and purpose? How will an individual without the ability to drive stay connected to their community, instead of becoming isolated? If you had no vehicle, how would you get around?
(McCoy is transportation coordinator, North Dakota Community Action Partnership)