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Friendly Rider might get pricier

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Wadena, 56482
Wadena PJ
(218) 631-1621 customer support
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson, P.O. Box 31 56482

The Friendly Rider Transit System is feeling the pinch from high gas prices, which may result in increased rates for passengers next year, according to transit officials. The county is considering a rate increase from the current price of $1 per ticket to $1.25 or $1.50.

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Each Friendly Rider bus averages 75 miles per day at six miles per gallon, said Bob Roggenkamp, transit coordinator. That adds up to a cost of $80 to $100 per day for the buses with a $3 gas price.

The transit system only budgeted for $2.25 per gallon gas for 2006.

"At the beginning of last year, that's what gas was," he said.

The bus system has come up with some creative solutions to the gas budget crunch. Friendly Rider has saved 10 to 15 miles per day by consolidating rides whenever possible, Roggenkamp said. The system tries not to take many rides with only one passenger.

"There's only so much you can conserve with these buses," he said. "We try to shut them off when we can."

County maintenance workers have also tried to do as many of the bus repairs as possible to save money, he said. Roggenkamp has worked on the buses himself. Although, sometimes the repairs and replacements that need to be made are more than the county workers can handle and must be taken out for work.

The buses require more maintenance now that they're getting older, he said. They were purchased new three-and-a-half years ago. The buses can be replaced after five years or 150,000 miles, he said. They will most likely be five years old before they reach 150,000 miles.

The Friendly Rider staff considered discontinuing the group rate, eliminating extra tickets in the ticket books and other special deals as a way of dealing with the ever-increasing price of gas, Roggenkamp said. Those cuts will not happen because the county board did not think the potential loss of goodwill with the public was worth the budget savings.

The 2007 operating budget application for Friendly Rider has been sent in, said Pam Jenson, administrative services supervisor. The system is requesting a fuel budget with a $3.50 per gallon gas price estimate. Friendly Rider originally asked for a budget of $3.259, but Jenson was advised that other transit systems were requesting $3.50, she said.

Anticipating gas prices is a guessing game, Roggenkamp said.

A public meeting to discuss fee changes for all county offices is tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19 at the court house.

Other Friendly Rider news includes:

• The county board passed a motion to turn down the capital grant for the renovation of the Friendly Rider bus facility at the August social services board meeting. Accepting the grant would have required following strict guidelines due to the building's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

• The county sent a request to the Minnesota Department of Transportation requesting funds for the $40,000 renovation of the Friendly Rider garage roof, said Jenson. The county can request state funding for the project because the roof is flat and the National Register of Historic Places does not care what is done to the roof.

sarah@wadenapj.com

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