Through the pilot, MnDOT is bringing travel planning apps to Greater Minnesota
In the Twin Cities and more than 200 urban areas around the world, bus and train riders, bike and scooter users, and those who rely on ride-hailing services can use the Transit app to plan trips and, in some cases, pre-pay fares .
Now, those living in southern and western Minnesota can do the same.
In a pilot program launched this month, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is working with 13 rural transit providers and intercity bus companies to integrate schedules into the app, allowing travelers in parts of Greater Minnesota to explore travel options by public transit and connecting with services. like those in the subway.
“This is a huge step forward for rural transportation providers,” said Elliott McFadden, coordinator of MnDOT’s Greater Minnesota Shared Mobility program. “They’re really excited. They’ve seen the need for the technology for a while, and it’s great to put it in the hands of the riders.”
Otter Express in Fergus Falls, Morris Transit and Minnesota River Valley Transit are among the agencies serving Le Sueur, St. Peter and Kasota. Others, such as Central Community Transit in Willmar, Prairie Five Rides in Montevideo, and transit systems in Mankato and Rochester are also part of the experiment.
McFadden said that with consolidated schedules in the Transit app, it will be easier to plan trips within the pilot area and between cities. For example, commuters in Blue Earth, Nicollet and Le Sueur counties can take on-demand True Transit to Mankato and then transfer to city bus service or Land To Air express service that connects to cities along Hwy. 169, the Twin Cities and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
“It’s great to see all the options and the more unconventional services,” McFadden said.
MnDOT identified the need to bring trip planning technology to rural areas as part of a 2021 statewide study. The agency applied for and received two innovation grants from the Federal Transit Administration and threw in some state money to cover the cost of the $1.9 million pilot project, which runs through April 2024.
Transit agencies don’t pay a dime, McFadden said.
McFadden said some transit agencies are sending emails to customers and placing posters on buses to spread the word and encourage riders to download the free Transit app.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota will study the pilot project and help decide whether more areas of the state should be added.
Free rides for St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day revelers can ditch the car for Metro Transit. The agency is partnering with Molson Coors to provide free travel on all buses and trains from 6 p.m. until the end of service Friday.
Minnesota Valley Transit Authority buses are also free as part of the St. Patrick’s Day Free Rides program.