South Dakota non-profit receives funding to develop statewide public transit plan for Native American Reservations

Possible public transit plan for Native American Reservations across the state
Rural Public Transportation
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 7:31 AM MDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Fewer than six people per square mile, with the two most populated counties on opposite sides of the state. Of the 66 counties in South Dakota, 30 are considered rural, while another 34 are considered frontier by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Getting to an area with more amenities can be an issue for some people. A possible study that River Cities Public Transit has recently gotten funding for could lead to a plan to provide people with public transportation across Mount Rushmore State.

“I think it would be a great idea because it would open up a lot more venues. I mean, public transportation should be accessible anywhere and everywhere. Especially in these big rural areas, it’s so spread out; it’s so vast,” explained Pine Ridge Reservation resident Bradley Hawk.

$527,520 is how much River Cities Public Transit was awarded under the Areas of Persistent Poverty Program to develop a transit plan that would reach remote areas of South Dakota.

“Let’s face it, the cost of transportation, car repairs, and all of that is going up, and we’re seeing higher demand for things like their jobs and employment and getting people to work as well as medical,” explained River Cities Public Transit executive director Ron Baumgart.

For the non-profit organization, the area they currently serve is an indicator of what can happen to an area with little to no way of getting around efficiently.

“From what we have learned from the areas where we do provide services if you can’t get to your job, you can’t keep a job, and if you can’t get to your therapy appointment every week, your health goes down,” explained Baumgart.

The grant also gives them the reach they would need to study Native American Reservations across the state to see what they would need in order to set up a functioning statewide public transportation plan that would help that area.

“Study these areas of persistent poverty that would benefit from better coordination of transportation and transit that’s out there to get these folks to jobs, health care, and whatever else they might need,” explained Baumgart. “We just hope that we can find open doors when we go to these areas and that people will be honest with us about their needs, and I think that’s really going to help this project.”

As for people like Bradley Hawk, even having these talks about how this study could help many if it does go well is reassuring.

“I have relatives that do come back and forth, and they do make it without a car, and it’s just mind-blowing to me, but having that, you know that they’re safe, they’re taken care of, and they’re on something that’s, you know, affordable,” said Hawk

River Cities Public Transit is communicating with the Federal Transit Administration to work out a plan to have enough research and travel time to fully study the public transportation needs of each area.