Article by: Axel Gumbel and Sherry Hines
The LeRoy Economic Development Authority (EDA) is boldly going where not many small town EDAs may have gone before – by launching a public bus service.
The service launched on December 1, 2016 and consists of one trip daily (morning/evening) to and from Rochester with stops in Grand Meadow, at Saint Mary’s Hospital, downtown Rochester and Walmart south (if needed).
What triggered the EDA to get into the bus business was the discontinuation of a long-standing LeRoy/Grand Meadow route in November of 2014. A group of Mayo Clinic employees then organized a van pool through a rented Enterprise passenger van. This van pool also was discontinued in September of 2015. That’s when the LeRoy EDA began discussions on how to bring back a public bus service with all members agreeing that a public transit connection to southeast Minnesota’s economic hub was vital to the continued appeal and survival of LeRoy.
Initially, EDA board members, LeRoy City Clerk, and CEDA staff member Sherry Hines attempted to work with existing bus companies to re-establish the LeRoy/Grand Meadow route, but it quickly became evident that such a route is not attractive or easily profitable for any larger bus company. That’s when EDA members and staff began entertaining the seemingly impossible idea of purchasing their own bus and operating the service.
As luck would have it, one of the companies the EDA and Hines met with, Minnesota Coaches, supported this effort, in part because the company owner had family ties to LeRoy and very much liked the idea of supporting their old hometown. Minnesota Coaches also had a used 31-passenger bus for sale. After EDA members traveled to the Twin Cities to inspect the bus, developed possible budget scenarios and explored the necessary local support structure for maintenance, drivers, etc., the group decided to take the plunge and purchased the bus.
A whirlwind of activity then took place in November 2016, when the EDA developed promotional materials (flyers, website, Facebook site) and a schedule, hired drivers and set a name and budget for the new service. LeRoy City Lines went into service at 6:30 a.m. on December 1, 2016.
Another crucial factor for the success of this new service was Mayo Clinic’s decision to support LeRoy City Lines passengers (who are Mayo employees) with an up to $80 bus pass subsidy per month. The success of LeRoy City Lines will depend greatly on Mayo employees using the service. However, since the EDA owns the bus and employs the drivers, the group also is offering the bus for charter trips during the day or on weekends and wants to promote this opportunity around the region.
Three months into the new service, the response has been very positive.