Monday was a big day for Hiawathaland Transit. The local bus service, a division of Three Rivers Community Action, added a new daily route connecting Faribault with Northfield.
The new route is the second major addition to Hiawathaland Transit’s local offerings in a month. At the beginning of February, the service added Saturday dial-a-ride services within the city of Faribault. Those additional services have been made possible thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said Dianne Ford, community action coordinator for Three Rivers Community Action.
The new route will run fifteen times daily, with eight routes from Faribault to Northfield and seven from Northfield to Faribault. By Monday afternoon, only a small handful of people had ridden the route yet, but Ford was unconcerned.
“I know it will continue to grow as the word gets out,” she said. “As with any new service, there will always be bumps in the road, but we’re excited about the opportunity to continue to serve our communities.”
It’s the first time that Hiawathaland has offered a regularly scheduled route between the two towns. In the past, Hiawathaland has offered dial-a-ride services between Faribault and Northfield, but a driver shortage forced that program to end.
The new route runs between the two towns’ city halls. Hiawathaland’s routes within both Faribault and Northfield are centered around the cities’ respective city halls, so they are central locations for people to change onto different routes inside the city.
Within Faribault, Hiawathaland Transit has two routes running Monday through Friday, a red route and a blue route. The blue route primarily serves the north side of Faribault, while the red has numerous stops throughout the south end of town.
Northfield’s routes are arranged similarly, with the blue route serving the northern part of town, including Carleton and St. Olaf college, and the red route serving the south part of town with a focus on businesses located along Hwy 3.
Each bus has a lift available to any client upon request, and the service does everything it can to accommodate the elderly and disabled. However, those who need a lift for the Faribault-Northfield route are asked to register beforehand due to limited space.
Hiawathaland is operated by Three Rivers Community Action, a nonprofit which seeks to provide key assistance for low-income families and improve the quality of life in communities across southeastern Minnesota.
Hiawathaland’s bus service is available to everyone for any reason. Hiawathaland buses provide expanded personal freedom and mobility for people of all ages, enabling them to go to school, work, run errands or go to their local library or community center.
Hiawathaland also serves not only Faribault and Northfield but also rural areas throughout the region, like Lonsdale and Kenyon-Wanamingo. Supporters say that public transportation brings significant benefits even outside the big city.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, each dollar invested in public transportation generates $4 in added economic revenue, boosting businesses and creating good paying jobs.
By reducing the number of cars on the road, public transportation reduces traffic, air pollution, wear and tear on the roadways and vehicle maintenance costs. It can even improve personal health with studies suggesting that use of public transportation increases exercise.