With America's baby boomers approaching old age, several area cities, counties and nonprofits are meeting to discuss the potential for upgrading and better coordinating regional transit service.
"It's kind of that brainstorming stage," said St. Peter City Administrator Todd Prafke, who with Le Sueur City Administrator Richard Almich, organized the meetings.
The city administrators, Blue Earth and Nicollet counties' managers, health and human services officials, VINE Faith in Action leaders and Minnesota Department of Transportation representatives have attended, and a survey has been conducted of transit users about whether they're satisfied with the existing system. Prafke said another meeting will be held later this month or in early May to discuss the results.
The next step could involve moving forward with a more coordinated transit system, including possibly setting up regular bus service along the Highway 169, Highway 60 or Highway 14 corridors; deciding that the current system is working well; or seeking a Minnesota Department of Transportation grant to conduct a more extensive examination of options.
The meetings already have sparked a discussion among Blue Earth County commissioners about improving bus service to rural towns in the county, which is one of relatively few in Minnesota without a countywide transit system.
Of the 87 counties in Minnesota, more than 70 have a transit system that is available to all county residents, according to 2009 report by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Blue Earth County and three counties that abut it (Nicollet, Le Sueur and Waseca) were four of the 14 that don't.
Blue Earth County Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg is a strong advocate for improving transit, saying it's not enough to rely on ride programs offered by volunteer-based nonprofit organizations such as VINE.
"This is really something government should be taking care of rather than a private organization," Stuehrenberg said at a board workshop last month.