Friday, March 31, 2023
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New app makes travel in the Mankato region more accessible

MANKATO – Suppose you want to travel from Mankato to Bangor, Maine. There are many online travel apps to help you plan your trip. But what if you want to take a day trip from Mankato to New Ulm?

Well, now there is a way to plan your trip. Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, we now have the first multimodal trip planner focused on rural transportation services. The Transit app is free and can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Multimodal means different modes of transport. So if you look at the Transit app, you’ll see options for walking and biking, as well as four-wheel travel.

But not your four wheels.

“That’s the really big innovation that we’re doing with this project,” said Elliott McFadden, Greater Minnesota Shared Mobility Coordinator at MnDOT.

“The technology that allows you to show public transit routes on things like Google Maps and Apple Maps only showed urban routes by bus or train. This project is a big step forward as it makes technology available not only to us but also to other transit providers across the country.

“We’re thrilled to be offering the services with this transit app and allowing people to see all of their options in one place,” he said.

“In the past you only saw bus lines, so it will be an improvement for the people of Mankato to see all the options that the transit company offers.”

Transit app options Mankato Transit System and TRUE Transit will be available in Mankato and surrounding areas.

“So if you’re in a city outside of Mankato, you can take this TRUE Transit that will take you to Mankato or pick you up and bring you back.”

The Transit app is used in more than 300 cities worldwide. According to a press release from MnDOT, users can view route and travel options for public transit and connection services.

“Select transit companies will also have in-app ticketing that allows passengers to pay for fares electronically and show their device to bus drivers,” the press release reads.

The mobile app makes traveling easy in Mankato, Rochester and Greater Minnesota. The app launched on March 1, and McFadden said it’s too early to assess its success.

He said they get usage reports from the Transit app as well as from the system that issues the tickets. There’s also a research team from the University of Minnesota doing analysis to “give us a more thorough understanding of how people are adapting to technology,” McFadden said. This information will help MnDOT decide whether to scale it to the rest of the state.

Basically, the Transit app is a personalized service like Uber or Lyft, but with a public transport provider. The app includes agencies from Rochester to Fergus Falls. “So you can see your options in a lot of different places, not just Mankato,” McFadden said.

Driving can be free as many of the transit app agencies allow passengers to purchase transit tickets. “So you don’t have to pay cash or have the exact change,” he said. “You can pre-purchase your ride and show the driver your device and drive.”

In terms of her typical demographic, McFadden sees two types of people using the Transit app. Current public transport users are one of them, and he sees them enjoying a better level of service that makes public transport more useful.

He also believes that people who are interested in public transport but haven’t tried it will give it a try. “It’s a great way to get started,” he said.

Each transit system has different hours of operation. Most routes in Mankato operate from approximately 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and some routes do not operate on weekends.

The Dial-a-Ride service with TRUE Transit runs from 8am to 5pm

“One of the nice things about Transit’s trip planning app is that it only shows services when they’re available and takes into account the different schedules,” McFadden said. “You can search in real-time or by a future date or time to see what services are available.”

The Transit app pilot program runs through April 2024 and is funded by two $1.9 million Federal Transit Administration innovation grants.

“Try it, share it with your friends,” McFadden urged. “The information we’re gathering from this pilot program will help us decide if we want to add more features and more communities.”

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