Corrected Sept. 20 for the correct phone number to book rides.
By CRISTINA JANNEY
WAKEENEY — After a wait of more than nine months, WaKeeney has received a new van to provide public transportation outside of the city limits.
The city already has a public transportation program within the city, but this van will be used to take local residents to appointments in Hays, Hill City or Quinter.
Service begins Wednesday.
Rural Trego County residents can also request rides to WaKeeney. The program has set a 60-mile limit but may make some exceptions for further distances based on driver and van availability, Nancy Bollig, parish nurse for the Prairie Faith Shared Ministry. She helped organize the grant applications for the van.
The city received a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation for 100 percent of the purchase cost of the van, as well as $3,748 from the Heartland Community Foundation to use toward the start-up costs.
To book a ride, residents need to call 785-743-8014 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m Mondays through Fridays.
This also will be the run times for the van.
Passengers will need to call for rides at least 24 hours in advance or by Friday for a Monday ride. The program is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so scheduling in advance is preferred.
The cost will be $10 round trip from WaKeeney to Hays, $7 round trip from WaKeeney to Ellis, Hill City or Quinter. Other rides will be 30 cents per mile.
The goal of the program is to provide transportation to all local residents regardless of the ability to pay. Bollig said she is still trying to work out the details of that part of the program.
The van the city purchased with the KDOT funds is handicap accessible with a lift. It can carry up to 10 people, depending on the seat configuration. Seats can be removed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Drivers and riders will be required to mask per federal regulations as a precaution against COVID.
Although the program sprang from a need for local residents to attend medical, mental health and dental appointments, Bollig said she hopes the van could be used to meet residents' social needs as well.
She said if a driver is available, she envisions groups going to Hays or Hill City for movies or plays.
She said the van may also be able to run early hours if a passenger needs to get to Hays for early morning medical procedures.
The idea for the program sprang from a Strategic Doing session, sponsored by the Dane G. Hansen Foundation. A small community group was formed.
The group researched what other counties were doing and found both Gove and Rooks counties have similar successful programs.
Bollig thanked the Heartland Community Foundation for its support, which paid for a cell phone for the program, a child safety seat, advertising, and Department of Transportation physicals and driver training.