NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Saturday August 19th 2017

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Public transit availability and public versus private ownership

BY JOHN CHARLES WILSON

Transit news in Phillips and in the Twin Cities is pretty slow this month, so I thought I’d congratulate our neighbors to the south in Rochester on finally having Sunday bus service for the first time in 50 years.

Those of us who are transit dependent in big cities often take for granted that service will be there 20 hours a day, every day. Smaller cities aren’t like that. I lived in Rochester twice, 1988-9 and 2005-6. Needing transit there is like having a 10 PM curfew on weekdays, 6 PM on Saturday, and being grounded every Sunday and holiday, even if you’re a legal adult who did nothing wrong.

Until five years ago, Rochester was the last city in Minnesota, and one of the last in the United States, to have a privately owned bus system. Most public transit in this country has been run by local governments since the 1970s. Rochester’s extremely conservative past is probably part of the reason. When I lived there, it was so right-wing that groups like the Posse Comitatus were almost mainstream and George H. W. Bush was considered a flaming liberal. Fortunately, Rochester is no longer so far to the right. There is even a thriving DFL and an open gay community in what is now nicknamed “Med City”.

Recently, I met George Holter, the founder of Rochester City Lines. RCL still runs commuter buses from all over southeastern Minnesota to the Mayo Clinic, and is a subsidiary of Richfield Bus Company, which does charters, and until 1979, ran suburban service from Minneapolis to Excelsior. He is 89.

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