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Grand Forks, UND working on bus collaboration system

A Cities Area Transit bus (CAT) stops at the Metro Transit Center at 450 Kittson Ave. on the afternoon of Thursday, June 21, 2018. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

A partnership with the city of Grand Forks and UND could bring a more consistent bus schedule for UND students, along with a reduced expense for the school, city and university, leaders said.

Plans are in the works for the city to take over the university's three bus routes next fall, including trading out three outdated buses for new ones.

The city receives federal funding for its bus services, but UND would have to pay a cost share of the yearly cost as a part of the new bus share program.

As a part of its 2019 fiscal year budget, UND will pay about $384,600 for the cost of drivers, rental of buses from the state fleet and other expenses. By 2021, those costs are expected to go down to about $236,400 as part of the university's partnership with the city.

Additionally the university would pay a one-time $304,000 fee to the city for the new buses, and UND would need to set aside money for a portion of the bus replacement going forward.

The new buses would be on the road for 12 to 14 years. UND has buses that have been on the road for about 30 years, said Dale Bergman, director for Grand Forks' Cities Area Transit.

Ridership on UND's bus system has decreased over the past few years, UND facilities head Mike Pieper said Wednesday during a joint meeting between the UND Student Senate and the Grand Forks City Council. That may be, in part, due to the inconsistency of the school's bus services, Pieper said.

The school contracts with the state's fleet, which can cause the cost of the services to be slightly "erratic," he said.

"We end up modifying the routes in order to balance the budget, and then that creates inconsistencies, and, therefore, our ridership has suffered a little bit over the years," he said.

The partnership would bring down the cost of the bus services for the university and also would allow for a more regular schedule for student riders, Pieper said.

Discussions about the city and the university working together on a bus route have been going on for about five years, Bergman said.

The city is in line for three new buses for the university routes, in addition to several other new buses for the city in general, Bergman said.

Bergman noted a similar partnership between Fargo and North Dakota State University has been ongoing for many years.

The final details still are in the works, but as long as everything goes according to plan, Grand Forks staff hope to be running those buses for the university by Aug. 15, 2019, Bergman said.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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