Pine County Public Transportation Option To Arrive In January
Pine County residents will be very happy to know that, starting in January 2011, there will be an easier option for those challenged by commuting. A plan has been agreed upon between the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Arrowhead Transit for a “commuter route” along the Highway 35 corridor, some Dial-A-Ride service in Sandstone, Hinckley and Pine City, as well as transportation for rural communities in Pine County.
Arrowhead’s Pine County Supervisor Voni Smolke, says “I’m excited for this new challenge! Transportation will be provided to a number of locations including Duluth and Mora as well as daily service to Rush City that will meet up with Heartland Express that serves Chisago and Isanti Counties.” According to Arrowhead’s Assistant Director, Joe Gentile, “service to Pine County is expected to be underway in January, 2011.”
In November and December 2008, expectations were running high with the announcement that Pine County would finally get public transportation that would start in early 2009. Those expectations came to a screeching halt in late December 2008. “It was like having a cement door closed in our faces” says Pam Smith, Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator for Arrowhead Transit. Now that cement door appears to be opened again.
Arrowhead is owned and operated by a Community Action Program, Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency which is located in Virginia, MN. Arrowhead Transit is one of the largest rural transportation companies in the United States and has offices in Gilbert, MN.
Arrowhead was approached in late 2009 to try again to provide service for 2010, but that request fell short due to budget concerns. The Minnesota Department of Transportation came to Arrowhead Transit officials again this past summer with a request to put together a plan to provide transportation to Pine County. Over the past few months, officials of Arrowhead Transit have worked to put together viable service plans to serve all of Pine County. According to Arrowhead’s Director, Jack Larson, “this plan is not as aggressive as the plan put together for 2009, but will still provide excellent service to the county.”
Arrowhead Transit is in the process of taking applications for 4 bus drivers to get routes up and going. Applications can be obtained by calling 800-862-0175 ext. 104 for Pam Smith or ext. 115 for Joe Gentile. Starting wage for an Arrowhead Transit driver is $11.10 an hour; they also provide uniforms and part time employees earn vacation time.