Roseville circulator bus expands to serve southeast part of city


Newtrax driver Randy Creel escorted a passenger into a handicapped-accessible bus at the Roseville Target on the first day of an expanded route aimed at increasing the weekly service to people in southeast Roseville. She was headed back to her home at Greenhouse Village.The city-subsidized Roseville South Suttle Bus operates at midday on Tuesdays.

courtesy of City of Roseville The expanded route of the Roseville South Shuttle Bus includes apartment complexes in southeast Roseville, home to many immigrant peoples. Organizers of the bus route of circulated maps and schedules in various languages. See more of the maps on page 10.

courtesy of City of Roseville The expanded route of the Roseville South Shuttle Bus includes apartment complexes in southeast Roseville, home to many immigrant peoples. Organizers of the bus route of circulated maps and schedules in various languages. See more of the maps on page 10.

Fueled by volunteers fanning out to distribute maps in five languages, the weekly free circulator bus in south Roseville has expanded to serve immigrants in the southeast part of the city, as well as residents in senior housing.

On Jan. 7, the bus service added the Brittany Apartments complex at Larpenteur Avenue and Marion Street and two grocery stores on Rice Street, Cub Foods and Aldi. 

Each Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1:47 p.m., two 12-passenger, wheelchair-accessible buses now serve nine housing sites, three Cub Foods stores, Aldi, Target, Roseville Library and Fairview Community Center.

Since December, more than a dozen volunteers have posted and hand-delivered hundreds of route maps in English, Spanish, Swahili, Bhutanese and Karen, a language spoken in Burma. A Somali version also is planned.

“The only way people know what we are trying to do is if they can learn about it, and offering information in their native language seems like a smart idea,” said Scott Olson, community transportation coordinator for Newtrax, a White Bear Lake nonprofit bus company providing the rides.

 

The circulator bus project was started last April as a city-funded, six-month pilot to help people with disabilities and older residents get to grocery stores and other services. Although there is no fee, riders have been donating an average of about $2 per trip. 

But while agreeing last April to pay up to $8,760 for the six-month pilot project, Roseville City Council members strongly urged organizers to seek ways to serve people in the Rice/Larpenteur area of southeast Roseville, an area with poor bus service and high numbers of immigrants and low-income people. Despite several volunteer efforts, little was accomplished.

The pilot was renewed for a second six months last October, and council members again urged action for southeast Roseville. City Manager Pat Trudgeon resumed efforts with volunteers, including some immigrants and the nearby International Institute of Minnesota, to figure out a new strategy. That led to the Jan. 7 expansion.

The project was initiated last spring by the volunteer Roseville Community Health Awareness Team (CHAT) and Newtrax, which owns 45 buses that take people with disabilities to work and life-skills training, but are idle at midday.

 

Low-cost trips

The Roseville circulator bus program is modeled after one that Newtrax began in late 2017 in White Bear Lake that now has four buses on two weekly midday routes. Roseville organizers hope to add a north route.

Newtrax charges the city a monthly fee covering fuel and bus drivers. It donates the upkeep, insurance and other costs. And since the program started, Newtrax has found ways to cut costs, Olson said. For instance, after an initial pickup at each housing site, the two bus drivers stay in radio contact to avoid stops where they know there are no riders to return home.

One result is that riders often get a trip home faster by avoiding unnecessary stops. On Jan. 7, a mother and child who went to the library from the Brittany Apartments pickup site returned home in 25 minutes with just one stop for two passengers at Target, skipping nine other stops that would have added 35 minutes more.

That also means saving for city coffers.

For the first six months, the program expense was $7,433, well below the $8,760 projected and further reduced by $717 in rider donations. The project served 339 passengers, an average of about 12 a week.

For the second six months, the city authorized spending up to $7,500. But grants of $1,000 from two Cub Foods stores and $2,000 from two Lyngblomsten housing sites — by far the largest user of the system — plus user donations, likely will reduce the city’s cost to less than $4,000. In the past three months, average ridership rose slightly to more than 13 passengers a week. That is expected to rise with more outreach and the three new stops added this month.

In addition to Brittany Apartments and the two Lyngblomsten buildings, housing sites served by the bus program are Greenhouse Village Co-op, Roseville Seniors Apartments, Village Park Condos, Heritage Place of Roseville, Sienna Green Apartments and Roselawn Village Apartments.

“We know this bus program won’t solve all of the transportation problems in Roseville,” City Manager Trudgeon said earlier this month. “But it can help. And this effort may lead to other ways to help Roseville residents get to work, go shopping and be more fully integrated into the life of Roseville.”

 

–Warren Wolfe is a Roseville resident who retired from the Star Tribune, where he reported on aging and health policy issues.

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