Why a Five-Year System Plan?
Transit systems in Greater Minnesota have been working in a rapidly changing environment with system mergers and increased demand for service along with new policies and funding situations. Despite significant growth in the amount of service available outside of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, transit in Greater Minnesota is not always recognized or understood by local officials and residents.
Transit providers and MnDOT agree that individual five-year plans will help identify system-specific priorities based on themes from the Greater Minnesota Transit Investment Plan (GMTIP).
Five-year plans will help systems better deliver service and work toward overall goals such as:
- Improving coordination of services to meet transportation needs;
- Increasing ridership/usage across the network;
- Ensuring fiscal responsibility as a transit funding agency;
- Anticipating and planning for future funding levels to achieve service expansion;
- Articulating and communicating a vision for the transit system and the benefits it provides to the community.
Plans are intended to help systems work with local government officials, local planning agencies, transit system board members, and other organizations to prepare for these changes. Transit agencies recognize the importance of involving local officials in planning activities to continue building local support for improving transit systems, including long-term commitment of local funds to leverage state and federal dollars.
The Executive Summary for Community Transit’s five year plan follows.
Community Transit of United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) provides demand response and deviated route public transit service for all people throughout eight counties in Southwest Minnesota: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood, and Rock. Community Transit is operated and governed by UCAP and the UCAP Board Agency, respectively. In addition, Community Transit receives guidance from its eight Transit Advisory Committees, one for each of the counties in the service area.
Community Transit has grown considerably in recent years, having completed full mergers with Lincoln County Heartland Express and Murray County in 2016, Rock County Heartland Express in 2017, and Pipestone County Transit in 2018.
The span of service varies by service type and route, with demand response service operating on weekdays for 11 to 15 hours and on weekends for 4 to 6 hours. Deviated route service operates on weekdays for 9 to 12 hours and on weekends for 9 hours. System-wide ridership has increased by over 105,000 since 2013, as shown on Figure 1. Total passenger trips especially grew in 2016 and 2017 due to agency mergers.
The project team for the five-year transit system plan met with staff from the agency, stakeholders, and Transit Advisory Committee members three times in the fall and winter of 2018-2019 to discuss the agency’s operating structure and environment, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. As a result of the meetings, agency needs were identified and prioritized for the five-year period, without fiscal constraints. This “unconstrained” needs list was developed to identify investments of all kinds that could enhance the agency’s operational efficiency. Community Transit staff then prioritized needs to inform which strategic investments Five-Year Transit System Plan for 2020-2025 Community Transit could be made to better meet the needs of the community.
The needs designated as a high priority by Community Transit were:
- Farebox Collection Technology
- Outreach Materials and Rebranding
- Facility Studies
- Windom Facility Remodel
- Replacement Vehicles
- Marketing Position
- Bus Stop Improvements
The project team developed capital and operating plans to lay out the costs of investing in improvements like service expansion, marketing materials, and improved dispatch technology between 2020 and 2025 to address the agency’s needs. The detailed plans are included as Appendix A of the full five-year plan.
This five-year transit system plan is intended to inform agency decisions and investments between 2020 and 2025.
It is considered a “living document” and providers are encouraged to update the plan as necessary to meet changing agency and community needs.