HERE COMES WINDRIDER: Free public transit program set to launch Monday, Nov. 6


Windrider Transit Program board members, from left, Quentin Schwarz, Heidi Barrett and Kristen Galbraith, gather Thursday for a picture with a Glacier National Park bus that Windrider is leasing to launch its program. (Enterprise photo by Nate Howard)
By: 
Dwight Harriman
Enterprise Staff Writer

Come Nov. 6, Livingston residents will have a whole new range of options for getting around town.

On that day, the county launches its Windrider Transit Program, offering free rides on four fixed routes within town. 

The idea of a local transit program was born from a need to provide residents with limited or no transportation a way to get around town for appointments, errands and other purposes.

Angel Line, a program currently operating to help seniors over 60 and disabled of all ages get around, doesn’t address a large segment of the population with transportation challenges, Windrider board members explained during a Thursday morning conversation about the program.

“There was a gap,” Windrider board member and City Commissioner Quentin Schwarz said.

The program is not trying to compete with Angel Line, but rather complement it, members explained.

“It’s huge,” Heidi Barrett, ASPEN (Abuse Support & Prevention Education Network) executive director and a Windrider board member, said of the Windrider program. “Eighty percent of our clients don’t have vehicles.”

 

Routes

Windrider’s Nov. 6 debut will use a 13-passenger bus leased from Glacier National Park, which makes its buses available during the winter season. 

The overall Windrider route will start at ACE Hardware at 6:30 a.m. and end at PrintingForLess at 6:05 p.m. with numerous stops in between. The route will be repeated six times a day — three times in the morning and three times in the afternoon.

This overall route can be broken down into four sub-routes. Route 1 starts at ACE Hardware, with stops at McDonald’s restaurant, Town & Country Foods, the Livingston Civic Center, the Livingston-Park County Public Library and Washington School. Route 2 starts at Washington School, with stops at Northside Park and Lewis Street between Main and Second streets. Route 3 starts at Lewis Street, with stops at the City-County Complex, Rx Coffee, Livingston HealthCare, Katie Bonnell Park on the north side and Total Fitness. Route 4 starts at Total Fitness, with stops at Spur Line and PrintingForLess.

A map of the routes and departure times can be viewed at http://www.parkcounty.org/Government-Departments/Transit.

Windrider will operate on these routes for the first six to nine months of the program, “so we can get our feet wet,” Park County Grants and Special Projects Director Kristen Galbraith said. 

Many of the stops are based on local organizations and businesses that contributed to the program, she said.

Windrider acquired a new 2017 bus, set to arrive in March of next year, that it will incorporate into the program in April, while the Glacier bus will be returned. Then, if the program is successful, it hopes to apply for funding for another new bus in the spring to have operational by 2019.

By next summer, Windrider would like to include rural routes that would incorporate Gardiner, Emigrant, Wilsall and Clyde Park.

 

How it’s funded

Galbraith said it might seem “a little out there” for a community our size to be having transit service, but she noted that there are 42 such programs in Montana, including in communities as small as 300 residents, that are supported by Federal Transit Administration grants.

Windrider’s annual operating budget is about $76,000. Of that, $60,000 is funded through an FTA grant administered by the Montana Department of Transportation Transit Division. The rest comes from Park County ($5,000 per year) and the City of Livingston (also $5,000 per year), as well as cash and in-kind contributions from community partners in the program. 

Those partners include Livingston HealthCare, Community Health Partners, Livingston Business Improvement District, L’esprit, Livingston Ace Hardware, McDonald’s restaurant, PrintingForLess, Rib & Chop House, Town & Country Foods, and the law firm Huppert, Swindlehurst & Woodruff.

Eighty percent of the $65,000 cost for the new bus will be paid for through the MDT Capital Grant Assistance Program. The other 20 percent will come from contributions from the above community partners.

Windrider is paying 9 cents per mile to operate the Glacier bus, which will come from the program’s operating cost.

Windrider will have three drivers, which constitute 55 percent part of the program’s $76,000 annual operating cost. Their pay ranges from $10 to $14.50 and comes with Park County benefits.

 

Health Fair rides

Meanwhile, before the official Nov. 6 launch of Windrider, the program will offer free rides to and from the Livingston HealthCare Fall Health Festival, set for 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 at LHC.

Windrider will pick people up at Town & Country, the Senior Center and the City-County Complex. For the schedule, email Windrider at transit@parkcounty.org or call the program at 922-5683.

 

The board

In addition to Galbraith, Barrett and Schwarz, also on the Windrider board are Mary Beebe, Human Resources Development Council Sherwood Service coordinator; Steve Caldwell, Park County commissioner, who is a non-voting member; David Eaton, Counterpoint executive director; Marnie Gannon, Angel Line board member; and Heather Jurvakainen, Park County Health nurse.

The program continues seeking more partners, board members said Thursday.

“People are excited about it,” Barrett said of Windrider.

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For more information on Windrider, visit http://www.parkcounty.org/Government-Departments/Transit, email transit@parkcounty.org or call 922-5683.

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Dwight Harriman may be reached at dharriman@livent.net.