The job shuttles start about 50 miles out and bring people into the city of Pierre for work. “We’re heavily government here for a small community,” he explains. And that translates into a lot of Monday-through-Friday, 8-to-5 jobs. “It’s easy to pick some times that we can run some routes in from the outlying communities for employment.”
With the tremendous increase in ridership, fixed routes could be in the future. When asked how the operations could be changing going forward, he mentions, “In the near future I don’t see a lot of change other than possibly a very limited fixed route through the very busy part of the two communities we serve.”
The Right People for the Right Job
Getting the right people is an integral part of any agency’s success. With little money, it has been a challenge for RCPT. “We certainly have some struggles in finding the right people that like this kind of work,” Baumgart states. “This is something new to the area. In 2001, when I came to this job, there were five or six employees, and some of those were part-time.” He continues, “Not many people knew about being a bus driver or a dispatcher or something like that, in this community until the last couple years.”
Another challenge RCPT dealt with was what it was offering. “We’re in a community that’s state, federal and county governments all here. All those entities have good retirement benefits, good health benefits.” He adds, “Basically we offered none of that prior to my time, or even about the first year I was here. We just couldn’t afford to.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that if we were going to get the kind of people we wanted to represent us in the office or represent us as a driver out in the community and represent our community, we had to, as a board and as a director, offer some benefits.” RCPT now offers health insurance, dental insurance and a simple type of retirement plan.
The Right People and the Right Equipment
With demand response service being provided every day, 24 hours a day, the right equipment makes it possible. Baumgart explains how it used to be, “The way it was prior to new development, they had to write all these rides. Then, we still had to enter them in the computer the next day.”
With 5309 grant funding through its Department of Transportation, RCPT facilitated an acquisition of scheduling software, GPS and mobile data computers for itself and several other agencies in North and South Dakota.
“It was a little more than we had anticipated from when we first took it on,” Baumgart says with a laugh. He adds, “It was a really good learning experience.
“I looked at it individually for our transit, and some others in our state and North Dakota were real interested,” he says. “The nice part about it is, if somebody has an employee that is sick or something and doesn’t have someone to run the system, the other six agencies do and in a case or two, we’ve transferred an employee to another agency to help them dispatch for a day or two.”
It’s also saved money, as they have been able to do joint trainings. “We really cut the cost and we got eight agencies with just great technology,” he maintains. In regards to the learning curve, he quickly adds with a laugh, “Everybody’s enjoying most of it, let’s put it that way.”
Working with the Community
When Baumgart came to the system, he mentions there was an effort to have partnerships. Headstart, the Boys and Girls Club, community youth centers, the YMCA after-school program; there are a variety of organizations that RCPT works with. The nonprofits in the area that have programs for kids contract the rides.
It took time and effort to build those relationships. Baumgart stresses, “It just takes trust.” He explains, “To turn something over to somebody else and have them provide transportation for your kids and their programs, that takes a lot of trust.
“Some of these were started — I probably shouldn’t admit to this — without a contract, because I didn’t want them to feel trapped,” he says. “With the Adjustment Training Center, they probably had two vehicles of ours for three or four months before we ever put anything on paper just to show we’re the kind of people you can get along with, that you can work with.”