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The quarter-millionth Friendly ride

Friendly Rider is closing in on a milestone in its seven-year history.

The bus transit system should be carrying its 250,000th rider within the next three weeks according to figures assembled by transit coordinator George Behl.

Friendly Rider carries approximately 800 riders each week in the winter. The service had provided transportation for 247,534 riders as of Nov. 24.

The small bus service carries a variety of passengers including elderly, handicapped, students and people having their vehicles repaired.

Behl credits the drivers that Friendly Rider employs with their growth.

"We've been lucky, we have some really good, professional drivers," Behl said.

Drivers include Gary Kasper, Linda Ness, Bill Wegscheid, Allan Knutson, Robin Groutberg, Scott Rude, Donovan Paine and David Zeise. Rick Pederson serves as dispatcher.

The service is funded by a state and local match. Riders pay $1.25 for trips up to two miles, $2.50 for trips up to nine mile and $3.75 for trips of more than nine miles.

Friendly Rider has four buses, one of which stays in Staples on a permanent basis.

The service operates from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday hours are 8 a.m. to noon.

Friendly Rider sends a bus to Bluffton on Thursdays, to Verndale on Tuesday and Thursday and Sebeka, Menahga and Nimrod on Wednesday.

People needing Friendly Rider's services can call (218) 631-5730.

"We haven't stopped growing," Behl said.