Tell us a little of your transit system’s background and history. How did the system start and where is it today?
Saunders County started their county transportation services on October 2, 1978, as the Saunders County Handi-Van. The program was set up through the Saunders County Senior Advisory Board with help from the Lincoln Area Agency on Aging. In the beginning, services were limited to disabled people or people over the age of 55; the office was based at the local Senior Center. I believe at that time there was one Driver/Manager and one Office Manager/Dispatcher and a backup driver. At some point our services changed to include all residents of Saunders County and became Saunders County Public Transportation. There was a short period of time we ran the Tri-County Transportation services in addition to the regular service. This service offered transportation for Saunders, Dodge, and Lancaster County residents. Today, we continue to provide rides to Omaha, Fremont, and Lincoln as well as servicing all towns within Saunders County. Our staff basically consists of the same staffing setup. We have a Manger/Driver, Part-time Driver and a Sub.
How long have you served as the manager?
I have been the Transit Manager since 2012. I started as a part-time driver and took over the Manager/Driver position in about six months, when the previous Manager retired. It is an amazing job that I truly enjoy.
How does your transit system serve the local community?
We provide rides to all the residents in our county. We have riders that use our services for many different needs such as medical appointments, shopping, and visiting at a friend’s house. Many of these riders tell us they would not be able get to their medical appointments out of town without our services. We also have a local county hospital/clinic who is partnered with us to transport county residents to their facility for free, which has been beneficial to our riders.
What are some highlights of serving your community?
It always makes me feel good when I have someone call for a ride or questions about if we can take them somewhere and they are so thankful when we are able to help them.
What are some challenges you see facing both your transit system and the industry as a whole?
I feel there is still hesitation in some people to ride public transportation due to concerns from the pandemic. During the beginning of the pandemic some people that didn’t feel comfortable with riding public transportation found other means of transportation and have continued to use those means.
Another challenge at this current time is the economy. Fuel prices are on the rise, which could be beneficial if the public looks to public transportation as a more economic means of transportation but, as I have seen in the past, it also means that transportation services may need to compensate the rising fuel prices by increasing rider fee rates.
How does being a member of the Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers benefit your system?
NATP has been a tremendous benefit to our transportation system. It allows not only myself, but my drivers to receive important training and keep up to date on information. The ROADEO training each year has been one of the best trainings. It is a way for drivers to practice their driving skills and get to know some of the other drivers from around the state. Last year was the first year I was able to have a driver compete and I believe competing helped build his confidence in his driving ability. It also allowed him to meet other drivers and connect with them to hear about their experiences in different situations.
What do your riders think of your transit system?
I feel many of our riders are grateful for our services. I have had many comments from riders that say they would not be able to get to their doctor appointments or other necessary places without our service. We have also received positive comments on how helpful our drivers are in ensuring the rider has a safe and pleasant trip.