Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Kimball has the feel of small town with big city perks

 

February 1, 2018



Small communities occasionally lack the services of larger, urban areas. But the lack of bus lines and taxis aren’t a problem in Kimball.

The Kimball County Transit Service continues expanding services throughout the area to include service to outlying villages and cities, all with professional and personal, door-to-door service.

“The service has expanded to better serve our residents,” said Christy Warner, Transit Administrator. “We have a regional multifaceted approach to having the new service areas.”

Throughout its growth, the service has added team members to include Christy Warner, Transit Administrator. Warner’s duties include overseeing the entire program including funding sources, such as grants, compliance with the Federal Transit Administration, the Department of Transportation and Nebraska Department of Transportation.

Louanna Gawith, a longtime employee, is the office assistant. She handles all of the passenger’s reservations, which includes working with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Intelliride for authorizations on subsidized rides.

“She does a little bit of everything from scheduling drivers to calling for maintenance on the vehicles but her most important role is customer service,” Warner said.

Kelly Durbin continues in her role of driver. Durbin has been driving for 19 years and has earned numerous driving awards.

“We have a pool of drivers,” Warner added. “When we have a reservation to go out of town, we call the drivers to see who is available to drive.”

Those drivers are Terry and Pat Lovesee, Karen Munoz, Pat Sibal, Marshall Lewis and Karen Hottell.

The added personnel and name change are not the only changes the service, formerly Kimball County Shuttle, has undergone.

Once, not long ago, a rider would have reached Durbin, the driver, directly with a phone call. Now, passenger reservations are taken in the office – a change that ensures safety and compliance, according to Warner.

The expanded service area allows the growing number of aging baby boomers to remain independent, stay in their homes longer right here in Kimball.

“The longer they are independent and stay in their homes the less likely they will be to move to a larger town for services or to be closer to their family,” Warner explained. “That translates into keeping dollars local even if they go out of town once in a while.”

Areas of service for riders in Kimball, Banner and Cheyenne Counties include stops throughout those same counties as well as Scottsbluff, Cheyenne, Wyo., Ft. Collins and Loveland, Colo.

“We offer incentives in the price of our fares for the residents of Potter and Harrisburg to come to Kimball for shopping and/or services,” Warner added. “They only pay $5 to come to Kimball versus $15 to Sidney or $20 to Scottsbluff.”

The transit has been approved to assist several programs in providing rides that were otherwise difficult or unavailable in Kimball, according to Warner.

Some examples are serving consumers through the Office of Aging, League of Human Dignity, DHHS, Medicaid, Total Care and United Health Care. As a benefit to the tax payers, these rides count towards our county match for the funding we receive.

“The number of boardings and revenue hours have dramatically increased,” Warner said. “So much so we have to have a second driver help with the local rides some days to keep people on time for their appointments. We could start out with only 10 stops and before noon have 40 stops for the day.”

Because the service has become so much busier, passengers are asked to call the day prior to schedule rides, or pay a same-day service fee for non-urgent rides. This allows Warner and Gawith to better plan for the drivers and schedule additional drivers in advance for days that are expected to be especially busy.

Extended services and additional drivers mean extended hours as well. Local shuttle hours remain the same, 8:30 – 4 Monday through Friday. Passengers can schedule rides from 9 – 4 throughout the week as well.

“We encourage passengers to call the day before their ride to avoid paying an additional same day fee. We are now open for some of the holidays where in the past we were not, Warner said. “If the school and clinic are open for a holiday then the transit will be running on limited schedule. Riders will need to call before the holiday and pre-book their ride as the office will be closed.”

Out of town rides are available from 8 – 5 , however, each ride varies depending on the passenger’s needs.

“These rides have to be scheduled at least 3 days in advance but preferably as soon as they know they need a ride. It gives us time to check the driver’s availability and preauthorize a trip if it’s through a program,” said Warner.

The service remains available to everyone.

“We have always been a general public transportation service but a lot of residents think of us as only for the disabled and elderly,” Warner said. “We have all types of passengers such as preschoolers, people who dropped their car off at the mechanic and need a ride to work, and others who are independent but don’t drive. We even partner with the local school and hospital on occasion. Rides can be almost any reason for example school, shopping, medical reasons, paying bills or visiting a friend.”

An errand service is also available. The driver will stop by to pick up a list of 10 items or less and then will return with those needed items.

“We have several people who take advantage of the services after a surgery or when the weather gets bad,” Warner said.

According to Warner, one of the goals for Federal Transportation Administration and Nebraska Department Of Transportation is to be able to provide public transportation to all areas of Nebraska including our highly rural areas of the panhandle.

“Our expansion of services tries to meet that goal. The other part is to coordinate services to reduce the likely hood of having multiple vehicles from multiple agencies driving to the same destination,” she said. “As an example, recently we got a call from Alliance and a Hemingford family had a family member being released from the Fort Collins hospital in a wheelchair and needed to figure out how to get him home. Our transit picked them up from the hospital since its in our services area and we met the driver from Alliance in Scottsbluff to transfer the rider. Alliance paid the fare to Kimball County Transit Services and collected from the Hemingford family.”

Warner is busy working with others to further serve all residents in the area for many years to come and at a reasonable cost.

“In the future we are hoping to get funding to be able to give veterans free rides. That grant isn’t (available) until spring so we will just have to wait and see,” she said.

One-way Fares:

1.50 Kimball 15.00 Sidney 50.00 Ft. Collins

2.50 Bushnell or Dix 20.00 Scottsbluff 75.00 Loveland

5.00 Pine, Potter & Harrisburg 25.00 Cheyenne 125.00 Denver

“For those who have not used our service, we provide personal door to door service which allows our driver to walk with the passenger carrying their groceries or packages,” Warner said. “On those long-distance trips, it means you don’t have to worry about where to meet the bus. We drop you off at the door and when your ready to leave you call and we pick you up at whatever door you tell us.”

 

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