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Board votes to continue Dial-A-Ride services as is

The Washington County Board of Commissioners made it clear that the county is not in the business of operating transit services when it voted 5-0 Tuesday, April 14 to endorse a Metropolitan Council plan to continue to allow Metro Transit to manage Dial-A-Ride services in the county.

Commissioners chose not to endorse an option Metro Transit offered to the county which would have placed the county in a position to directly operate or manage Dial-A-Ride services within the county.

The county's comprehensive plan states that the county does not operate transit systems, said Washington County Public Works director Don Theisen.

"At this time, we don't even have the staff resources to manage the Dial-A-Ride services," Theisen said.

The commissioners' action means continuation of the current service of six to seven buses in daily operation under contract between the Metropolitan Council and Human Services, Inc.

Dial-A-Ride is a curb-to-curb minibus or van service that operates within certain communities within the county. It is shared-ride service, which must be reserved in advance. Dial-A-Ride service is not intended for commuters.

The Met Council recently approved a plan to restructure the region Dial-A-Ride service.

Under the restructuring plan, all existing Dial-A-Ride contracts will be reevaluated and regional operating funds will be reallocated to each of the seven counties based on a new distribution formula, wrote Wayne Sandberg, Washington County deputy public works director.

Also, as a part of the restructuring Washington County will assign two representatives to a coordination advisory committee, which will oversee the restructuring of the Dial-A-Ride services plan. The representatives are likely to be staff in the county's public works and public health and environment departments.

County commissioner Dennis Hegberg said he supports the Met Council's restructuring of the Dial-A-Ride system with a more integrated approach.

"It makes sense to have a more integrated system, because all I have heard is complaints about that aspect of the service," Hegberg said.