Apr 24, 2024

Open Plains Transit announces new services during Nebraska Public Transit Week

Posted Apr 24, 2024 7:38 PM

By Open Plains Transit

Open Plains Transit.PNG
Open Plains Transit.PNG

Nebraska Public Transit Week (NPTW), proclaimed as April 21-27, 2024, by Governor Jim Pillen, aims to highlight the pivotal role of public transit in fostering accessibility, sustainability, and community connectivity across the state. The Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT), in collaboration with public transit providers throughout the state, will provide a showcase of the benefits and opportunities in embracing public transportation. In 2023, Nebraska’s rural transit drivers traveled over 4 million miles with over 600,000 passenger boardings. Public transit options, in both rural and urban communities, are vital to those who do not own or cannot use a personal vehicle.

Open Plains Transit (OPT) operated by Senior Services, Inc. based in Alliance, NE, offers either intercity bus, local transit, non-emergency medical transportation, Medicaid transportation services or all of these, to a service area that encompasses the Nebraska Panhandle region, includes the recent expansion of county-wide services to the 6,000 square miles of Cherry County, the City of Valentine and other communities located within its borders. Intercity bus services operate on regularly scheduled routes along major Nebraska highway corridors, between Panhandle communities to outer region destinations of Hyannis on NE HWY 2 and Valentine on U.S. HWY 20. Currently, OPT offers transportation to select locations in South Dakota and Wyoming. Allowing for additional access to healthcare or regional transportation connections in Cheyenne, WY. Connections to Pine Ridge, SD for Indian Health Services, conducting business at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, connecting with Oglala Sioux Transit or visiting family and friends. In 2023, OPT transported over 7,200 passengers and traveled over 238,281 miles.

OPT Director of Transportation, Jonnie Kusek, believes in working together with those that have a common goal. “We can achieve so much more by working together, pooling our resources, analyzing the logistics and data and creating a greater collective impact for our region and for those we are here to serve.” By working with likeminded partners, such as Christy Warner, Transit Administrator for Kimball County Transit, mutual passengers are able to travel between the Panhandle region to Colorado front range communities and the Denver International Airport (DIA) or from the Union Station/Amtrak (Denver) and DIA, all the way to Rapid City, SD. The Panhandle portion of this route transpired after a two-year pilot project conducted by OPT. OPT officially kicked off this route from Scottsbluff, NE to Rapid City, SD, earlier this year. This route currently operates Tuesday through Friday. It departs early, includes a stop in Hot Springs, SD, Monument Health, intercity bus and airport connections in Rapid City, SD, returning by 2:15 p.m.

OPT is collaborating with partners based in South Dakota, on a Highly Rural Transportation Grant (HRTG). This grant-based program helps Veterans in highly rural areas travel to VA or VA-authorized health care facilities. This program provides grant funding for transportation services in eligible counties. Nebraska currently has 37 eligible counties. OPT would be the transportation service provider for trips that originate or end within their service areas in Nebraska. “We need to find additional ways for our Veterans to access needed healthcare,” states Kusek. “Logistics and distances are already barriers enough. Let’s at least try to take advantage of funding and partnerships that are out there to pay for the transportation. Then all we have to do is find vehicles and qualified staff,” she says with a smile. “We can do that! Right?” Always the optimist.

For many in the Open Plains Transit service area, public transit is a lifeline to medical care, groceries, food subsidies, senior and veteran services, education, jobs, and mobility in their day-to-day lives.