People’s Transit adds to fleet

PHOTOS BY ROGER LARSEN/PLAINSMAN People’s Transit Executive Director Gayle Kludt demonstrates the use of a front wheelchair lift on one of the two new 2019 Ford Champion buses that will soon be in use in Huron. In the second photo, once in operation, and with the spare tire no longer in the way, fold-down seats will provide extra seating in the buses when there aren’t wheelchair passengers.

HURON — Contributions from a Huron business and a foundation have provided necessary 20 percent local matches to give People’s Transit the ability to offer rides in two new buses, the executive director said.
The Huron community continues to be very supportive of the transit agency, whose riders would have difficulty in getting around — both in town and for out of town appointments — without the service, Gayle Kludt said.
Auto Body Clinic and the Huron Community Foundation are the latest entities stepping forward to enable People’s Transit to leverage federal dollars which pay for the 80 percent balance of the cost of the vehicles.
The buses have arrived in Huron, but are not yet in service.
“We just have to get some things done before we put them on the road,” she said.
“We had five vehicles released by the state that were very high mileage and/or the cost to get them drivable was going to cost more than they were worth,” she said.
People’s Transit has been awarded federal dollars for two more buses, so it will need sponsors for the local match on those.
But a new seven-passenger minivan will be in use soon and a wheelchair accessible minivan is on order.
Transit agencies which purchase vehicles using federal money must have older ones released by the state when they want to retire them.
“We can’t just say we’re done with the vehicle, we’re going to sell it,” Kludt said. “You have to tell them why you want it released – high mileage, cost of maintenance is beyond its value, that type of thing.”
The five vehicles People’s Transit had released were sold during an online auction by Ben Meyer, bringing in more than $8,700. That money will be used down the road as part of a local match for another vehicle.
Contributions from the Huron Community Foundation over the past three years plus funds from the Bob and Emily Entwisle Trust provided the 20 percent local match for one of the two 2019 Ford Champions that will soon be in use.
Kludt ordered them with front wheelchair lifts as opposed to rear wheelchair lifts.
It’s more convenient for the driver to operate the lift at the front of the bus rather than walking to the rear.
“Secondly, it’s more comfortable for the folks that are in wheelchairs that ride the buses because with the front lift they’re in front of the rear axle and it’s a much easier ride for them,” she said.
When on board, the wheelchairs will be located one in front of the other rather than side by side, so the passenger who needs to get off first won’t mean the other one has to be moved out of the way.
There are also three fold-down seats, accommodating two persons each, giving the bus the ability to carry six additional passengers when there aren’t wheelchair riders. That will be more efficient when all of the riders are school kids and there are 17 seats instead of 11.
“I just went with as much versatility as I possibly could,” Kludt said.

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