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Ridership increasing for local Friendly Rider bus program

Josephine Weiher, of Wadena, won a grand prize for participating in the Give Transit-a-Try promotion last week. Driver Leroy Rentz, right, presented her with her two tickets to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater for Beauty and the Beast. Tickets were courtesy of 94.7 KSKK The Arrow in Wadena.1 / 2
Ellen Canning, of Wadena, won a grand prize during last week's Friendly Rider promotion. Dispatcher Mandy Peterson presented her with two tickets for a production of Beauty and the Beast at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. Tickets were courtesy of 94.7 KSKK The Arrow.2 / 2

Friendly Rider has increased ridership over the last year after a few different promotions have introduced people to the local, county-funded transit.

Friendly Rider promoted "Give Transit a Try" week April 4-10. The goal was to get people to try the bus and learn about the system, said Ryan Damlo, Transit Director for Wadena County Friendly Rider.

The week was a success overall. Riders took the bus 1,195 times over the course of the week, which was the best ridership for the county since March 2014. Part of this week was a promotional week with several days of free rides coinciding with local events in Wadena and Staples. Riders had the opportunity to register for prizes every time they rode the bus. Winners from both Wadena and Staples won prizes such as Friendly Rider bags, tickets and passes. Two winners won grand prize tickets to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.

Friendly Rider now operates from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in Wadena and Staples. The bus also runs until 10 p.m. every Thursday night.

Employees who work at Morey's in Motley asked for the bus to run earlier so they could make it to work on time. Damlo said that service is now available.

"We also are able to now get riders to work at Morey's by 7 a.m. since we are working hard on our new commuter route that runs between Wadena to Motley on a daily basis," he said.

The community route to the east on Highway 10 is beginning to open talks with businesses to the west as well, such as KLN in Perham. Damlo is working to see if a western route can be established in 2017.

All of these additions are helping Friendly Rider establish new growth. Friendly Rider has grown 8.7 percent in ridership during the first quarter in 2016 compared to the first quarter in 2015, showing locals are utilizing the public transportation option.