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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

Transit runs town shuttle

By Tiffany Ayres
News Editor

Friday, September 24, 2004

To accomodate students without vehicles on campus, St. Olaf College provides transportation services, giving them the opportunity to venture into Northfield when they so desire. This past summer, St. Olaf and Carleton decided to update the previous transportation system with a more effective "Dial-A-Ride" program.

In early June, members from the student activities offices of both St. Olaf and Carleton met to review Northfield Lines rider reports for the campus shuttle bus. The reports showed that the bus drove around town empty most of the time.

Robin Ruthenbeck, director of Student Activities at Carleton, suggested looking into a contract with Northfield Transit. Ruthenbeck and Kris Vatter, director of Student Activities at St. Olaf, met with Deb Little, transit manager for the city of Northfield, to discuss the potential change.

After working out the logistics of the new system, the they received approval from each college to proceed with the change. Vatter said the Northfield City Council approved the plan on Aug. 16, expressing the hope that the new system would bring students into more contact with the Northfield community.

Under the new program, students can call and make reservations two hours in advance for rides to wherever they need to go. With the previous system, students needed to fit their trips into the bus hourly schedule, setting aside two hours for normally quick errands.

"Its a lot easier to call and get a ride than it is to sit on the bus for an hour or more and go the whole route when its unnecessary," Vatter said.

Northfield Transit will provide free rides for students with college ID from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to any destination in Northfield. Before, stops on the route were scheduled only for area businesses. Under the new system students can make any kind of trip into town, even to visit family and friends.

On Saturdays, however, the bus will revert back to making scheduled stops from 10:20 a.m. until 1:20 p.m.

Along with the new transportation provider, students now have access to policy information regarding the transit system through the St. Olaf Student Life web page. In previous years such information was not posted on the web for easy access and students were not directed to such information.

Differences between the old and new Northfield Transit services include required reservations for return trips, a request for riders to be ready 10 minutes early, a request for riders to allow for a 10 minute delay in pick-ups when necessary, charges for repeated noshows, and enforced passenger conduct rules.

Between St. Olaf and Carleton, Northfield Transit receives a flat fee from existing transportation funds, which turned out to be $3000 less than the previous Northfield Lines program.

Northfield Lines still does considerable business with St. Olaf, running the weekend co-op to the Twin Cities, the Saturday movie bus to Lakeville and other transportation services.

"Were still tracking stops and usages to see how the new system is being used but we wont have that picture until next June," Vatter said. "At this point, student comments and concerns are welcome."

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