Cass County Transportation seeks input on proposed Dowagiac-Niles transit route

Published 3:00 pm Tuesday, July 12, 2022

CASS COUNTY — The Cass County Public Transit Authority continues to expand services and is seeking community input on potential out-of-county routes.

“What we found was that people in Cass County want to travel outside the county for entertainment, shopping and employment,” said CCTA Director Robert Durm. “In order to meet those needs, we decided to start connector routes.”

CCTA started its initiative this summer with a connector route from Edwardsburg to Mishawaka, Indiana. The route runs on Tuesdays and features stops including the Martin’s/Walgreens in Granger, Indiana, University Park Mall, Mishawaka Walmart and the St. Joseph County Medical Center and VA clinic. Durm said it takes approximately 12 to 18 months to establish a connector route.

“We do three loops per day,” Durm said. “We’re trying to help people who don’t have the means to get to the places they need. We want to do the same thing in Dowagiac.”

Starting this September, the organization will offer a connector transit service from Dowagiac to Niles. Stops include Four Winds Casino, 58700 M-51 S.; Niles Dial-A-Ride, 623 N. 2nd St., Niles; Walmart, 2107 S. 11th St., Niles; and Southwestern Michigan College – Niles campus, 33890 US-12, Niles. The route will be a deviated fixed route, so 24-hour advance request will be required. Riders will be picked up and dropped off at their requested location. There will also be a centralized pick-up at the Dowagiac Train Depot for convenience.

To better serve the needs of Cass County residents, Durm is asking Cass County residents what day(s) of the week would be most beneficial for travel to the Niles area and what locations they would like to see on the route. According to Durm, the casino is outside of the DART system’s coverage area.

“Our goal is to get enough ridership to establish a regular route,” he said. “I think the Dowagiac route will have a lot of success because we will stop at the casino.”

CCTA is a shared ride transportation system for Cass County residents, with special reduced fares for seniors, individuals with disabilities and children.   

The proposed Dowagiac route is the result of an extensive county-wide transportation survey recently completed by KFH Group funded by a federal grant. Local residents were asked if they thought there was a need for additional or improved public transportation in Cass County, and if they would support additional funding to expand public transportation in the future. Although the majority of survey respondents reported that car is their primary mode of transportation, more than 91 percent responded that there is a need for additional or improved public transportation in Cass County. More than 90 percent responded that they would support additional funding to expand public transportation in Cass County in the future.

Below is a summary of the plan recommendations:

  • Scheduled routes that connect Cass County communities to key destinations in the region, including health care.
  • Expanded evening service that provides Cass County residents with greater flexibility in accessing key destinations, particularly employment opportunities that require later work hours.
  • New Saturday service that allows Cass County residents to access key community locations on the weekends.
  • On-demand services that enables customers to use a smartphone app to schedule and pay for a ride.
  • Further coordination between the CCTA and DART systems.
  • Rebranding of public transit services in Cass County.

For route feedback or questions, call Cass County Transportation at (269) 445-2455 or (800) 323-2508.