When most Americans think about public transit, they think about cities and dense populations. Legacy subways and elevated trains in older systems like New York and Chicago, light rail in fast-growing cities like Charlotte and Phoenix.
But this morning I toured the recently modernized River Cities Public Transit Facility in Pierre, South Dakota. This system has a remarkable service radius of 100 miles, and that means a service area of bus and transit vans covering more than 31,000 square miles.
Local public transit is tremendously important for many residents living and working in Pierre and the surrounding region. Serving 11 different counties--including seniors, people with disabilities, veterans and the Cheyenne River and Lower Brule Sioux tribes--is a real challenge, but the River Cities team is meeting that challenge thanks in part to $5 million in support from our Federal Transit Administration. And this morning I was thrilled to see the difference those grants are making to the people in central South Dakota.
Ridership on River Cities Public Transit has grown more than six-fold over the last five years, making the upgrades to the system more important than ever before. The transit facility used FTA funding to create maintenance space to service nearly 100 buses and other transit vehicles in the River Cities fleet. It also has a new dispatch center with upgraded computer scheduling and GPS technology to better monitor and track vehicles and keep them on schedule.
The FTA has also provided money to help replace aging buses and minivans and to improve transit for the area’s veterans.
If you're waiting for a bus in the cold of a high plains South Dakota winter, a system that keeps its vehicles well-maintained and as close to on-schedule as possible is an absolute lifeline.
And we're committed to bringing more good transportation choices to rural South Dakota as well as small towns and tribal lands across the country. This summer, President Obama signed into law a new transportation bill. This bill, called MAP-21, does good things for transit across the country, and it does good things for South Dakota’s tribal communities.
During the next two years, it will send $25 million directly to tribes that provide public transit. And in total, it provides $21 billion for improving transit systems across the country—funding a true needs-based approach for bringing our bus and rail systems into a state-of-good-repair.
The FTA's commitment to public transit in South Dakota and across the U.S. is just one part of this Administration's commitment to investing in a 21st century transportation network that meets the needs of all Americans. Working together with partners like River Cities Public Transit, we will continue doing exactly that.