State public transit officials meet in Duluthby Bob Kelleher, Minnesota Public Radio
Duluth, Minn. — Transit officials from Minnesota and Wisconsin begin meetings in Duluth Monday to share the latest in public bus and other transportation systems.
Public transit use continues to grow nationwide about ten percent a year, according to Tony Kellen, a transit official in St. Cloud, and current president of the Minnesota Public Transit Association. This week's three day conference will focus on funding and service issues and on new developments like high speed rail.
Kellen says the conference comes as federal stimulus funds provide bus systems a big boost.
"We basically saw really like a one year advance on our formula programs, so we purchased buses in the state - quite a few of them in fact; and facilities were also addressed in a number of areas," he said.
He says the trends point to a greater need for public buses and rail.
"We're going to see large numbers of people retiring, having to give up the automobile," Kellen says. "With gas prices the way they were a year and a half ago, we saw 20 to 30 percent increases in our ridership. Those have leveled off and come back down quite a bit, but we still have been experiencing ten percent year over year increases in public transit ridership."