Imagine if you didn’t drive. How would you get groceries? Run errands? Stay connected to friends? Transportation is a critical link in helping people maintain their independence and access services that provide for their overall health and self-sufficiency. As our population ages, and driving becomes more limited for older adults, accessible transportation options are a growing need.

In late October 2018, thanks to generous community sponsors, the Community Thread Connector Loop bus service started as a one year pilot. The fixed-route service runs every Monday from 10 am – 3 pm between Stillwater and Oak Park Heights. There are no sign up requirements and riders of all ages and income levels are welcome to use the service.

The bus makes scheduled stops at housing complexes including Boutwells Landing, Rivertown Commons, Oak Park Senior Living, Raymie Johnson Estates, Ann Bodlovick Apartments, and Green Twig Villas. Residents of Birchwood Commons will soon be able to board the bus at their site. The loop takes passengers to retail sites, the food shelf, and various medical facilities.

Every day, on average 15 people use the bus mainly to access retailer that sell groceries and general household items. Riders shared their experience using the bus loop service on a recent survey, with comments ranging from “I can go shopping on my own without depending on anyone in my family” to “it is convenient and I can count on it”. Going forward, they will continue to be able to count on it, thanks to funding from community supporters for year two of the service.

New supporters this year include Andersen Corporate Foundation, the City of Stillwater and the Greater Stillwater Area Chamber of Commerce. Returning supporters are Allina Health – Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, City of Oak Park Heights, Lakeview Hospital and the noon Rotary Club of Stillwater.

The bus seats 16 people and is handicap accessible. With a $3 all you can ride fare, riders may get on and off at any of the stops along the loop. Riders who live within 2 blocks of the route may request to be picked up at their home by calling DARTS at 651-234-2272 the week prior to the service. For more information or to see the two block radius, go to www.CommunityTheadmn.org or call Community Thread at 651-439-7434 for a schedule.

As a community, we are fortunate to have generous supporters who understand the value of transportation and its impact on quality of life. As the bus loop service becomes more familiar to the people who can benefit from it, it is reassuring to know that it will continue to operate. To have both renewing and additional funders step up to support another year of service demonstrates how our community goes the extra distance to make a difference in the lives of those who need some assistance.   Let’s all acknowledge, and thank, these supporters for their commitment to our quality of life.

By: Sally Anderson