TRIBAL TRANSIT PROGRAM ―the REZ Runners‖ FACE FINANCIAL PROBLEMS
The Northern Cheyenne Transit Program is facing financial problems. As a result, all riders, including the elderly and handicapped may now have to pay full fares, according to Acting Director Janis Spear.
The program, established in 2008 under the Leroy Spang Administration was funded by a federal grant from the Federal Transit Administration (about $500,000). That funding enabled the Tribe to purchase two buses and begin providing public transit services on the Reservation, one of the poorest in MT. That grant paid for all the costs of the program (salaries, gas etc.)
Until now, the elders and the handicapped were able to use the Transit system for free. According to Mickey Burns, former Transit Liaison Specialist, who helped worked for the transit program when it first started, the program waived fees for the elderly.
Then TERO Director, Eugene Limpy hoped that transit services would always be free for the elders and handicapped, Burns said . Spear, who is serving in an acting capacity pending reor-ganization of the Tribal Transpor-tation programs, said that the Tribal Transit Program no longer receives federal funding pending another grant cycle and that they are looking for alternative funding with some good prospects.
In order to continue providing the service, everyone may have to pay to keep the it going,‖ Spear said. The program needs to produce revenue.‖ The fares (taken from the tribal website) are: one-way $2.00 (more than 10 miles) ; round trip—$3.00 and in the Lame Deer area—.50 cents. Therefore, we assume it would cost an elder from the Lame Deer area $1.00 to use the Transit system to go and eat lunch at the Elderly Program and then return home. This is the case when the elderly van often breaks down, or the program does not have gas cards or a driver.
I worry about that,‖ said Pauline Eaglefeathers, elderly program employee. Especially towards the end of the month when budgets run low‖.
In addition to the funding challenges, both of the Transit buses are in need of major repairs. Spear also said that the Saturday Billings run will be temporarily suspended. We looking at all possibilities to keep the Transit going,‖ Spear emphasized.