Transit Board Responds to Tribal Member Concerns
By Joe Morey
Several complaints and concerns have been expressed by tribal members in recent months regarding Namekagon Transit and its service to communities within the reservation. More specifically, service to outer communities not served on their direct routes, New Post, Six Mile and Signor.
One complaint stressed to the LCO Tribal Governing Board stated LCO Ojibwe College classes end at 8:00 pm and they won’t pick up students even though Transit door-stop services run till 8:30 pm on weekdays.
Namekagon Transit operates under a $1.6 million dollar budget with the Tribe contributing $165,000 and Sawyer County contributing $150,000. Over $1 million is funded by federal grants while $175,000 is collected through fares and agency reimbursements.
Due to the amount of recent complaints, TGB member Michelle Beaudin suggested the Tribe start up their own transportation service to serve these unmet needs. There is a growing amount of support among TGB members.
TGB member Tweed Shuman, who also serves as Transit Commission Chairman, stated it would be costly for the Tribe to create their own transit service.
“Namekagon Transit is currently addressing all concerns and comments regarding transit services on both, the reservation and southern Sawyer County,” Shuman said. “A lot of this can be solved by better communication with the transit schedule and door stop services. We are trying to make Transit more efficient and an economically feasible public transportation for the tribe and county.”
Shuman said all tribal communities within the reservation and southern Sawyer County can be serviced with a phone call a day in advance before 1 pm.
“Any tribal member concerns should be brought to the Transit Commission,” Shuman added. The Commission meets every second Thursday of the month at 1:30 pm at their headquarters one mile east of Hayward on Hwy B.
At their most recent meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9, Transit Director Karen Melasecca gave some information about the service. She said Transit has 20 buses on the weekdays with two to three buses operating on the weekends.
“Our buses are for everyone and all ages,” Melasecca said. “We’re proud of the high volume of riders we take to work for such a rural area. We offer a door-stop service outside of our regular routes which we can guarantee a ride if you call by 1:00 pm the day before. If you call a couple hours ahead there is a good chance we are already booked.”
Melasecca said rides need to be scheduled because buses may already be booked in another area. “It’s not an on-demand service. If you call an hour ahead and our bus is already on their way in that area, then you will get that ride, otherwise you have to call a day in advance.”
Regarding service to Signor, Melasecca explained the bus travels by Signor a couple times a day as it goes to Winter and back to Hayward. Riders from Signor can schedule to be picked up during that time. Monday through Friday the bus leaves Winter at 7:00 am, stops at Radisson G-1 gas station at 7:15 and again at Stone Lake G-2 gas station at 7:40 am, so the bus would travel past Signor between that time. The bus arrives in Hayward at 8:00 am. The bus comes back through again leaving Hayward between 10:00 am and 10:30 and arriving in Winter between 11:00 and 11:30 am and back in Hayward by 12:30 pm.
The afternoon route leaves Hayward at 4:00 pm., stops at G-2 gas station at 4:20, G-1 in Radisson at 4:45 and arrives in Winter at 5:00 pm. Melasecca explained door-stop service is still available to Signor outside of those route times, but a rider must call a day in advance by 1:00 pm. to be guaranteed the ride.
Riders may flag a bus down along the routes, provided the spot is a safe place for the bus to stop.
You can visit namekagontransit.com for more information or to visit the regularly scheduled daily routes through the reservation. Also, the bus will deviate from the regular route up to three quarters of a mile to pick up a rider. Melasecca added that they can’t deviate though from the routes if roads or driveways are unplowed.
Call 715-634-6633 (Toll-free: 866-295-9599) to schedule any door-stop service.
The Transit website states, “At Namekagon Transit it is our goal to provide safe, reliable, and efficient transportation to the residents in our service area. Our transportation services are wheelchair accessible and are open to the general public. We are available to take phone calls between 5:30 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday and we are open until 9:00 p.m. on weekends.”
Transit Commission member Hal Helwig said Transit is a public service and not everyone will always be happy, but Transit does its best to serve the community.
LCO TGB Member and Transit Chairman, Tweed Shuman (on the left) and around the table from his left are Hal Helwig (Sawyer County Community Representative), Sawyer County Board members Elaine Nyberg and Ron Buckholz, Transit staff members Craig, Dana, Rick and Connie, Marie Kuykendahl (LCO Community Representative) and Karen Melasecca (Transit Director). On the phone was Don Carley (TGB Representative).