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Re-routing panhandle resources

Kimball County Transit Services visits with Sidney City Council about dedicated route

By Joshua Wood, Stevenson Newspapers

As new projects come to the Nebraska panhandle-and with less than 40 miles separating the cities of Kimball and Sidney-public transportation has become more common.

In 2017, the Kimball County Transit Service had 7,000 rides. According to director Christy Warner, that number is expected to be approximately 30,000 at the end of this fiscal year. Warner provided this information to the Sidney City Council during their March 14 meeting.

"I know this is the first time I'm in front of you, but you've seen our vehicles running around Sidney quite a bit, I'm sure. They're hard to miss," said Warner. "As we start to grow and see quite a bit of change in the area, we just wanted to make sure that we're good neighbors and talk to you guys about what our plans are with that growth and what that might look like here in Sidney."

That growth and change in Kimball, and surrounding areas, comes due to a myriad of projects. A new critical access hospital, a second incinerator planned by Clean Harbors, a Dollar General and the upcoming Sentinel missile silo project are all slated for Kimball.

"We're seeing quite a bit of growth in Kimball and all of that flows over into Sidney and Potter and all the surrounding communities because Kimball can't hold all of that," said Warner. "So that brings in the transportation."

According to Warner, the 30,000 rides estimated for the end of this fiscal year are all on-demand. This means the Kimball County Transit Service doesn't have a dedicated route, but instead picks up passengers as needed to bring them to Sidney-or take them to Chappell-for medical appointments, shopping or other needs. Due to the increase in passengers since 2017, Kimball County Transit Services has added six more vehicles to their fleet with the intention of starting dedicated routes.

"All 30,000 rides are on-demand, but we are getting ready to start the routed service between Kimball/Sidney/Chappell and then Kimball to Scottsbluff. We did already start the Scottsbluff to DIA (Denver International Airport) route," said Warner. "Those who call from Sidney, we generally feed them into our route that meets up at Kimball to take them down to DIA."

Warner said rather than having the fleet "scatter like mice" from Kimball for every on-demand ride, the route to Sidney and Chappell would leave at scheduled times to take a group of people to either community. Those times, said Warner, will be at three-hour intervals beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. According to Warner, the start and end times of the routes would correspond with employee shift change at the hospital and Clean Harbors.

An additional piece to the growth in the Kimball County Transit Service, said Warner, was gauging the interest of the Sidney City Council in a park-and-ride program. This was proposed by Warner somewhere further down the road, but would prevent the Kimball service from following directly behind the Sidney service.

"That's not something we're asking for tonight," said Warner. "We would just ask if that's something we can talk about in the future."

As the program grows, Warner said she was asking for a letter of support from the Sidney City Council for the dedicated routes. She was also requesting permission to work with City of Sidney staff on a Memorandum of Understanding in case of emergencies such as one of Kimball County Transit Services' vehicles being involved in a collision.

Both requests were approved unanimously by Sidney City Council.

The dedicated route, said Warner, would cost passengers less than a tank of gas. A daily option would cost $5 per day and take them along the route all-day from Kimball to Sidney or Chappell and back. A monthly option would cost $50 per month. An eventual route would be established from Kimball to Scottsbluff as well.

"What that really accommodates is we need to be more efficient with our dollars, our drivers and our vehicles," said Warner.

The next meeting of the Sidney City Council will be at 5:30 p.m. on March 28 at Sidney City Hall.


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