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Trailblazer growing, with some pains

To the Editor:
Trailblazer Transit provides “dial a ride” transit service in the McLeod, Sibley and the Wright counties area. It is organized as a joint powers entity by McLeod and Sibley counties and Wright County Area Transportation (WCAT) which is comprised of 14 communities within Wright County. The WCAT service area has a population more than twice the combined population of McLeod and Sibley counties. Residents of this area may be interested to know that from 2013 through 2015, Trailblazer Transit has provided a 67 percent increase in service, which included expanding service into Wright County with our partners in WCAT. Our operations went from 136,260 rides in 2013 to 227,744 rides in 2015. Trailblazer grew 34 percent in 2014 and then added another 24 percent in 2015, in the number of rides provided.
These are fantastic growth figures. Needless to say, we are suffering growing pains. Coincidentally, this major expansion is occurring when the current economic recovery has reduced unemployment rates and has many employers scrambling to fill job vacancies. Trailblazer is in the same predicament. The Trailblazer Transit Joint Powers Board continues to address the needs of additional management and staff to provide area residents with a success-driven service provider for their transit needs.
Public transit in Greater Minnesota is mandated as the result of the 2006 MVST Constitutional amendment as voted on by the citizens of Minnesota. In it, 40 percent of motor vehicle sales tax is dedicated to transit, with 4 percent allocated to Greater Minnesota transit systems. This is our mandate — with funding — to provide transit service for people in our service area. We have an obligation to provide this service with local control, but under state and federal regulations. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is our partner in transit operations in that it provides 85 percent of qualified operational costs, which includes funding coming from federal transportation programs. The remaining 15 percent of operational costs comes from fare box and contract revenue and, if not adequate, the joint powers board partners are responsible to fund any shortfall. MnDOT is in full support of, and instrumental in, Trailblazer Transit’s expanding operations for our service area.
Our duty as Trailblazer Transit is to find the means to meet the service demands utilizing all the resources available to us. We are now operating from two bases with the opening of our new Buffalo Trailblazer Transit facility. We will capitalize on this with our best efforts to overcome our growing pains and make the best decisions to meet the needs of Trailblazer Transit and our constituents in Sibley, McLeod and Wright  counties service areas for many years to come. We look forward to serving you soon!            
Ron Shimanski, Chairman
Trailblazer Transit
Joint Powers Board