Wiidookodaadiyang Giniigaanayi'iiminaaning - “Working Together for our Future”

A Report and Photo Series on Progress for Red Lake Nation


Red Lake Transit

Over the rest of Summer and into the Fall, we will be publishing stories and many photos of; recently completed, current, and future projects in progress on the Red Lake Indian Reservation...for the betterment of the Nation and it’s members.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians has several million dollars worth of construction going on this Summer and Fall, including; housing, environmental and energy initiatives, elder and youth services, transportation, infrastructure and more.

In this THIRD of the series now on “Current Projects”, Red Lake Transit is highlighted, along with an update on the the Ponemah Community Center

Red Lake Transit: Eight Busses & Working Toward Regular Routes/Times

Directly across the street from Red Lake Foods, passers-by have probably noticed the big building with four huge doors going up in back of Red Lake Transit over the summer. Nearly ready for occupation, (probably in September) the building will be used for maintenance, and a garage for the expanding fleet known as Red Lake Transit.

The new structure measures 50 feet by 80 feet, and will house up to eight busses – two deep. Red Lake Transit has been operating with six busses up to now, but with the recent purchase of a new bus and a new van, there will now be eight vehicles in the Transit motor pool.

The motor inventory for Red Lake Transit now includes an eight passenger van, two-12 passenger busses, four-20 passenger busses, and one-24 passenger bus. All have capacity for at least two wheel chairs. Wheel chair passengers use dial-a-ride.

According to Red Lake Transit Manager Mike Ness, the older building on site will be used for some maintenance, tools, storage and offices. A new addition will house dispatchers, and a waiting room just like a regular bus depot. Ness has been with the transit for 11 years, and has previous experience as a driver and manager in Arkansas and South Dakota. Ness is a substitute driver when needed.

Red Lake Transit employs four dispatchers, four full-time drivers, five part-time drivers, and one maintenance person, plus manager Ness.

One of the drivers, Jeff Iceman, is a real pro who has participated in - and is a winner of - “bus roadeos”. Bus “roadeo” competitions are contests that test the skills and knowledge of bus drivers. The contests challenge drivers to keep their skills current, encourage continued mastery of all aspects of equipment operation, while setting an example for the best safety practices.

Two dispatchers, a mother and daughter team, Evelyn and Carmen Clark, explained how the Transit’s GPS system keeps track of where the busses are at all times. That way they can be dispatched in the most efficient and quickest manner if calls come in for a ride.

“Much of our business is dial-a-ride” said Carmen Clark”, but we are working toward more regular routes”. “Right now it costs $1 per ride, 50 cents for elders and students”, added Evelyn Clark, “and children under six accompanied by an adult ride for free”, she said. According to Ness, “the Transit’s budget runs around $400,000, of which about $25,000 comes from riders - which is poured right back into the business”, he said.

“One bus goes to Ponemah daily, four times” noted Carmen Clark ,. “They leave the Red Lake garage at 6:00 AM, 7:30 AM, 11:30 AM, and 4:30 PM. They arrive about an hour later, circulate and then return members to Red Lake for jobs, shopping, or medical and other appointments”, she said.

“Two busses circulate around the Reservation on the south side from Big Stone area (15 miles west of Red Lake) to Redby”, added Evelyn Clark.

Busses travel to Bemidji two days a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, with two busses leaving at 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM, for folks who want to go to medical and other appointments, shopping, etc. Ness hopes to start a Saturday route to Bemidji on the same schedule.

“We’re working toward regular routes and times as we grow”, observed Ness. “We will probably circulate between Circle Pines to Redby. We’ll serve folks from Big Stone, but they will have to call” he said. “People will still be able to dial-a-ride, but there will be a $2 charge for home pick-up, however bus stop pick-ups will stay at $1”.

Ness said that Red Lake Transit will soon be building 15 bus shelters. Community meetings will be held to help decide where the shelters should be located. Passengers will also find a comfortable space with snacks and beverages in the new addition of the terminal waiting room, and dispatch station.

Red Lake Transit is funded by Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The service got started with some money from the FTA state pass-through monies. Now Transit get monies directly from Feds. The Federal government has now set up special accounts for tribal communities.

Red Lake Transit Manager Mike Ness has been employed with Transit for 11 years

Red Lake has also received $3.7 million in grant funding from USDA Rural development, MN DOT, U.S Dept of Energy, and the federal highway administration, of which included improvements to the transit building.


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