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Bis-Man Transit’s fixed-route and paratransit services to and from the University of Mary are being given another go, following the Bismarck City Commission’s unanimous approval Tuesday of a second pilot route to run during the 2018-19 school year.

The fixed route - known as the green route - will operate on the same path as the first pilot, which ran during the 2017-18 school year, but additional marketing will be done to increase ridership to and from the campus, according to Bis-Man Transit Director Roy Rickert. The pilot will include paratransit services.

“The key to the success of the service to the campus lies in how the system is marketed to the students and the staff,” Rickert said, noting the Transit Board recently met with representatives from the University of Mary to discuss ridership, cost of service and funding at “great lengths.”

“Potential ridership at the university is continually growing and there is great benefit to getting those students and employees to and from campus. Not only do they provide increased sales tax revenue, but they are also a key factor in workforce development to the area,” he added.

The pilot was approved with the following stipulations and metrics:

  • The route will operate on the same path that it is currently operating through June 30, 2019.
  • Ridership must increase on a monthly basis, with at least three months each reaching 500 or more boardings at the campus between September 2018 and April 2019.
  • The University of Mary will purchase a minimum of $15,000 in passes, of which there will be 512 monthly student passes, as well as some single-trip and day-trip passes.
  • The university will administer a ridership satisfaction survey to the students.
  • The university will present the proposed agreement for future sustainability of service to the Transit Board no later than their March 2019 meeting.
  • Transit will engage with the marketing department of the university’s school of business to partner in marketing and promotion of the system to the students and employees.
  • Transit and the university will meet monthly to discuss the current ridership and strategize on how ridership can continue to be improved.
  • Transit will seek the creation of a task force chaired by Bismarck City Commissioner Nancy Guy to include Transit, the University of Mary, Bismarck State College and the United Tribes Technical College to make recommendations on how to increase student ridership throughout the entire community.

“We’ve come up with, I think, some interesting ideas to get kids on the bus who may have not purchased bus passes yet,” Guy said. “And once they see how easy it is to use, and get them out of town a couple of times, I think we’ll see some increase in the sales of those passes.”

Prior to the city commission’s approval, Bismarck resident Robin Berger appeared before the board to share her daughter’s recent, positive experience riding Transit.

“I have a college student who just started attending U-Mary. She does drive, but she’s kind of uncomfortable with the distance and parking,” she said. “I have actually benefited, as a mom, and she, as a commuter, to be able to have the chance to use the bus to come home a couple times this week. I think it’s been an awesome experience for her. It’s been safe.”

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(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or cheryl.mccormack@bismarcktribune.com.)​

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General Assignment Reporter