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What started as answering a few questions at a conference turned into the City of Minot’s transit fare system being the subject of a national case study on preventative maintenance.
It all started when Brian Horinka, vehicle maintenance/bus superintendent for the City of Minot, attended the American Public Transportation Association Expo in 2015.
“I was visiting with the representatives of Genfare, who is the vendor for our current fare collection system,” said Horinka, who has been the superintendent of Minot’s transit department since 2011. “I had told them that the system had been very reliable, and they started asking questions. Why is it working so well? What kind of maintenance are you performing?”
One thing led to another, and soon Horinka was answering even more questions from Genfare representatives.
“They apparently liked our answers, because they thought Minot would be a good case study subject,” Horinka said. “When we got back to Minot, Genfare set us up with an independent writer, who did interviews with us. That’s how the case study came to be.”
Horinka will attend the conference again in April. This time, though, he’ll have additional duties.
“They asked me if I would be a leader for the Genfare user group,” he said. “I’ll be part of a panel discussion to answer any questions about this type of fare system, what we’ve found works for us, and how we do our maintenance. This certainly isn’t what I expected from answering a few questions at a conference.”
The City of Minot switched from its old system of using tokens on buses to a new Genfare system in July 2015. The system has worked well.
“The new system helps drivers stay on schedule, which is good for our passengers. Anything that we can take from the drivers’ hands means they can focus more on driving, which ultimately makes for a safer ride for everyone,” Horinka said.
Horinka said they were pleasantly surprised that switching to the new system generated very few complaints.
“I expected some people to be unhappy with the change, but there has been very little negative reaction,” he said. “We worked hard to make sure tickets were available at locations that were convenient for riders.”
The new system, which was 80% funded through the Federal Transit Administration and the North Dakota Department of Transportation, included many changes. Tokens are gone; paper tickets are in. The system does not make change, so riders need to have exact change. Drivers no longer carry money on the bus or sell tokens.
“Prior to the switch, we had money on the bus. We had tokens on the bus. We had drivers selling tokens and making change. Imagine how long a bus could sit on Burdick Expressway while a driver sells a rider a pack of tokens, makes correct change, and waits for the rider to take a token from the pack before turning his attention back to driving,” Horinka said.
The Genfare system works well, and Horinka said Minot employees have taken preventative maintenance to a new level to insure the system works at its full capacity.
One small example: When the paper tickets are unpacked, employees spread them out in order to remove any loose paper dust and debris. That way, Horinka said, the tickets are free of dust and debris when they are used in the system, which helps keep the system cleaner.
“Sometimes simple maintenance can solve a lot of problems,” he said. “We’re not doing anything special, but we’re very diligent about what we do and how often we do it.”
Encouraged by the smooth transition to the Genfare collection system, Horinka said his department is planning more changes that will make the transit system more accessible and user-friendly for riders.
Sometime this spring, Horinka said a transit ticket vending machine will be installed in the lobby of the Municipal Auditorium, adding another location where transit riders can purchase tickets.
“We’re trying to make our system as friendly as possible to use,” he said. “Our ridership has been increasing, and we want to make sure we’re taking care of our customers.”