County Board hears 5-year transit system plan

NEW ULM — Brown County Commissioners filed a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Five-Year Transit Plan Development after hearing a presentation from multinational engineering firm AECOM Representative Calves (Will) Gullermo during a meeting Tuesday.

“MnDOT’s goal [sic] the idea is to meet about 90 percent of the needs for transit services by 2020,” Gullermo said. “Some of the benefits of the plans that were done for both Brown County and the neighboring systems are how to improve coordination to meet transit service needs around different parts of the state, try to increase ridership and usage of the network in general.”

Gullermo said he’s been working with Brown County Heartland Express Transit Manager Pat LaCourse’s office for almost a year to determine service planning and prioritization chapters within the public transit system.

The Five-Year Transit Plan Development calls for a step-by-step process with revitalization and additions to key points within the system beginning 2020.

2020 calls for a continuation of extended hours of service in New Ulm from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with additional hours of service 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on one weekday in Brown County. A new vehicle storage and maintenance facility in Sleepy Eye is also proposed in addition to the continuation of replacing older vehicles.

Gullermo said the transit system may also benefit from a part-time marketing specialist that could assist in the rebranding of the Heartland Express name and likeness.

“The Heartland Express name is seen as maybe it’s a little tired,” he said. “It could use some kind of refreshing.”

The plan also calls for a potential marketing partnership with TRUE Transit in Mankato for a connecting service.

In 2021, the plan proposes an initiation of a new deviated fixed route service in New Ulm 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“That would operate similarily to the east-west corridor that you see in the county,” Gullermo said. “Likely operating on a fixed route just within the community.”

He said the plan is still within its early-stages with determining the operating costs of a 12-hour day.

In 2022, a Saturday pilot service of four to five hours of service in New Ulm is proposed with additional hours of service 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on two weekdays in Brown County. An addition of cardreaders and online reservations to the RouteMatch system is also proposed. By 2023 and 2024, continued maintenance on updated transit vehicles is conducted, Gullermo said.

LaCourse expanded upon the part-time marketing position proposed within the plan. He said the marketing specialist could work with TRUE Transit in Mankato to potentially expand Brown County Heartland Express into a connected service with Mankato.

He said TRUE Transit will soon be providing service with Land to Air Express to offer a free bus service from New Ulm to Nicollet, Le Sueur and Blue Earth counties into the Land to Air terminal in Mankato.

“It’s kind of in the beginning stages right now, but it’s something that if that could develop, Brown County Heartland Express could certainly find a theater into that,” he said.

The Five Year Transit Plan Development was filed, motion by Commissioner Scott Windschitl, seconded by Commission Anton Berg.

Commissioners also approved:

• A placeholder on the proposed additional Brown County Sheriff’s Deputy position. Commissioners tabled a request to add an additional deputy July 9. Reasons for the added position includes increased calls for service, longer transport times with the closest juvenile detention center in Willmar, increased Probation Apprehension and Detention Orders, the sheriff’s office is assisting local law enforcement agencies in more involved and conflict of interest criminal cases and mandated training is increasing.

A deputy entry level position includes $73,683 for wages, benefits, retirement and medical costs.

• Posting the advertisement for two full-time license bureau technician positions. An additional full-time license bureau technician position is part of the posting. Restructuring is intended to address additional wait times and duties at the license bureau.

• Planning Commission recommendations.

• The next meeting is 9 a.m. Tuesday in the courthouse commissioner’s room.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.