May 13, 2014

Mass transit system under development

By JONATHAN R. PITMAN The Oskaloosa Herald
The Oskaloosa Herald

---- — OSKALOOSA — There are currently plans underway to develop a mass transit system in the city of Oskaloosa that would help school kids, seniors and anyone else who needs transportation to easily travel to their destinations.

The Iowa Department of Transportation outlined a plan, but has not issued a timeline in terms of when the project would be completed. The proposed bus route would run on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Busses will be able to carry up to 22 passengers. It is slated to cost the city at least $100,000.

The Oskaloosa Rides Committee has raised over $24,000 to cover the 20 percent the State Transit Assistance Special Project Applications was unable to acquire.

“The money we have raised from the Iowa Department of Transportation and 1015, will fund 80 percent of the project for the first year and 75 percent the second year,” Dylan Mulfinger, management analyst for the city of Oskaloosa, said. He also speculated the plans to move forward with the project would be set for sometime in July. The pilot program is in its infancy, but has warranted the support from local area businesses.

“If the the pilot program is successful, we will look into other funding sources such as federal ridership funds. If the first two years show enough ridership, we should have a chance at creating a permanent program. We have raised $25,000 as a community and I have been working with United Way and investments from several community partners like Clow and Mahaska Health Partnership,” Mulfinger said.

He also said Oskaloosa has received funding from the Mahaska County Community Foundation.

Mulfinger was optimistic the plan would be well received by the community.

“The community is really excited,” he said. The purpose of having the bus service would provide service to those communities that are underserved.

“A lot of community groups and community businesses are working to serve the underpopulation and they thought we really needed something to get them to grocery stores, get them to appointments, to the hospital and getting people out and about to the city so that they can do other errands,” he said.

In addition, the bus route would give access to those who don’t have cars for transportation.

“The 1015 plan would be used to fund the additional resources needed, which include bus service and maintenance,” Mulfinger said.

Individuals that are 18 and under get to use the transportation system for free. While handicapped seniors would only pay $1. A monthly pass is $20. The route would cover the majority of the main streets in Oskaloosa along with residential streets.

Another issue that needed to be assessed is how the plan to incorporate a transit system would impact traffic in the area. According to Mulfinger, traffic as it relates to the bus service will not be an issue.

City Editor Jonathan R. Pitman can be reached by email at news2@oskyherald.com