DART travels 105,000 miles in NilesPublished 5:58pm Monday, January 28, 2013
Five Niles Dial-A-Ride buses provided 31,644 passenger trips during 7,700 hours and traveled more than 105,000 miles serving the city and Niles Charter Township in 2012.
As public transportation for the Greater Niles Area, anyone can ride DART, whether it’s to Niles or Brandywine schools, Walmart, Martin’s, pharmacies, Four Flags Plaza, Lakeland, Longmeadow, Silverbrook Manor, apartment complexes, YMCA or the South County courthouse, Kelly Getman-Dissette, the transportation coordinator, told Niles-Buchanan Rotary Club Monday at Riverfront Café.
Getman-Dissette has been with the city for four years.
Fares cost $3 (within city limits) or $4 (township). Drivers and office staff cannot make change or make unscheduled stops.
Half-price reduced fares are available to persons receiving supplemental Social Security income or Medicare (ID or Medicare card required) and/or seniors age 60 or older.
Fixed route deviations cost $2 ($1 reduced fare), plus 50 cents.
DART $10 punch cards may be purchased from drivers or at the DART office, 623 N. Second St. Tokens are also available at the office for agencies/groups. Cash or checks only; no credit cards.
Call (269) 684-5150 to schedule a ride at least a day in advance to get your preferred pick-up time. Use the fixed route whenever possible because it is cheaper.
Use of seatbelts is recommended for all passengers. Wheelchairs must be secured. Tickets are available upon request to transfer from the fixed route to demand response and vice versa. Dispatcher approval of transfer is required.
DART is a shared ride service, not a taxi. You may be riding with several other passengers. They strive to make scheduling as efficient as possible, but riders should expect to be flexible in their pick-up and drop-off times and to schedule accordingly.
Niles DART’s policy is to make sure the needs of priority one (recurring/subscription trips) and priority two (24-hour calls) are fully administered before addressing the needs of priority three (one-hour calls) or priority four (rides reserved less than an hour in advance) calls.
DART allows riders to request a pick-up or drop-off at locations up to a half-mile from the route. Reservations can be made by calling (269) 684-5150 at least an hour before you want to be picked up. All riders pay an additional 50 cents for a route deviation.
Deviated fixed route
“Our deviated fixed route starts at 10 o’clock in our office on Second Street,” Getman-Dissette said. “It kind of winds around town, heads down South 11th, then makes its way back up. We even stop now at Auten Road and 933, initiating contact with South Bend Public Transit Service. We’re looking for ways to expand that. Our office on Second Street serves as a transfer point. The greater picture of public transit in Berrien County is pretty complicated. There are four providers — Buchanan, Berrien Bus, which is countywide service, and Benton Harbor-St. Joseph has Dial-A-Ride. Our office meets up with those, as well as Cass County Public Transit. We don’t encourage folks to flag us down.”
“One of the first things we’ve done — kind of low-hanging fruit — is we all offer reduced fares. We all have the same application, prices and cards good for all the systems,” Getman-Dissette said. “Our governing body is Niles City Council. It has final decision-making authority on our major purchases, service hours or fares. We also get input from a local advisory board comprised primarily of folks who ride the service.”
“We’re funded at three levels” about $500,000, she said, including federal, state and local revenue sources. “A new transportation bill passed last summer. There’s a provision that allows us to use our federal funding for operating expenses, which will help a great deal. Our funding comes through South Bend, which makes us unique. In addition, we apply every year to MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) for operating and capital funding. Federal dollars are only able to cover 80 percent of capital purchases and 50 percent of operating dollars. We’ve always relied on the state for match.”
“We were told that beginning in October, fiscal year 2014, the state is going to retain operating support, but is going to reduce capital match,” Gtmaqn-Dissette said. “We’ve always received 20 percent, but beginning with the next fiscal year we expect 13 percent. Seven percent we must come up with locally. If we need to buy a bus for $70,000, we used to rely on MDOT.”
Niles levies a half-mill local support.
“That used to generate about $100,000 a year,” she said, “but with declining property values in the city, now it’s generating about $90,000.”
Passenger fares account for about $60,000 annually.
“We worked very hard to cut expenses,” she said, such as the move in 2011 to save more than $40,000 a year with in-house staff. The city previously contracted with a third party for operational and managerial staff, McDonald Transit Associates.
DART, established in 1974, closes on six holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Hours of operation
7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
10 a.m.-5 p.m.
To schedule a ride, call (269) 684-5150