“With our current facility, we’ve got buses parked outside,” Cline says. “We’ve got not enough parking even for our staff to park. If you’re going to keep growing and progressing, you really need to have a facility that’s going to meet those needs.”
Coming up soon, the USDA and the CTAA will come out and help Prairie Hills Transit help a green facility and come up with some ideas that will maybe help generate some revenue to help support transit. Cline adds, “Everybody can agree that the pot of money is never big enough and it’s not going to increase as quickly as the needs of the community.”
When talking with Cline, it’s interesting that the focus always seems to fall on people or organizations working together. When I talk to her about her success in transit she attributes it to the teamwork of the staff. When we talk about running a transit agency, it turns to the tight community through the various national and state organizations. And when we talk about the system operating in its community, it is set up to work closely with other departments.
Prairie Hills Transit is part of a coordinated system in its community. Cline explains that the governor of South Dakota had an initiative where he went to the secretaries of departments and said they would be a coordinated system. “We have been a coordinated system working with many of the other agencies in our community since 1995.” She adds, “It’s nice to be able to call those agencies, or have them call you, have a social worker call or a nursing home call and say, ‘Can you do this?’ or, ‘Can we help with that?’” She adds, “Everybody learns from each other.
The Transit Community
Helpful to Cline and the agency is being involved in the transit community. As Cline says, it provides a “think pad” of cutting-edge approaches. “Transportation people are some of the most giving people that I have ever met. You don’t have to recreate something; all you need to have is a list of peers that you can call.”
With so many organizations having an abundance of resources, Cline says that there are many things she has learned that have helped the system. “I think of the people who are where I was a few years ago, where I’m the only one in the office, there aren’t other people that can help me do these things, and I think for them it becomes a very difficult and daunting challenge to try and tie-in to those resources because there just isn’t enough time.” She adds, “I would encourage other people to make a simple phone call because there are resources out there that can tell you at the drop of a hat what you need to know and where you need to look.
“I just worked on a Synthesis Panel [TRB] which was wonderful,” Cline says. “I’ve never done anything that much fun and rewarding.” She quickly adds, “I don’t think they expect them to be fun, but it was great. It was a topic that I was really enthused about, good people on the panel, good ideas and Donna Vlasak is a great gal to have as the staff person.
“I think that there are lots and lots of resources out there, there are always opportunities for people to look at those resources.” Cline continues, “They may not always be exactly in line with what they want, what they are doing, but they certainly should get some great ideas that would help.”
Looking at the Bigger Picture
With so much involvement in national organizations, working with people from a variety of agencies, I asked Cline if she has any interest in working in a larger agency. “There are lots of opportunities out there to go into a larger agency; I’ve had job offers. There are some things we need to do here first,” she states. “There is a need and until there isn’t a need, I’ll probably be right where I’m at.”
Her passion about helping people continues to show as she talks more about that need in the communities she serves. “If they are Title 19-eligible, they don’t have the resources to do all the other activities of daily life.
“They don’t have the funding to be able to go to the grocery store. There are programs to help with so many things and there are those people who just fall into the category where there is no additional help to give them independence.”