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Illinois Valley Community Hospital driver Chuck Kellett shuts the door for a customer of North Central Area Transit. The transit company is a countywide public transportation system that began service Monday. NCAT partners with community agencies, such as IVCH, to offer rides.
NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
Hitch a ride
For specific information on how to schedule a ride visit www.NCAT.com or call (815) 288-2117.
Ever since Oglesby resident Joe Rossi, Jr. had knee replacement surgery he had to pay for Illinois Valley Community Hospital bus services. At $4 roundtrip the price had started to add up. But once the North Central Area Transit bussing system started up Monday, Rossi’s payments are half as much. “It’s reasonably price and I enjoy it,” he said, before begin picked up for another trip on Friday. La Salle County now has a curbside-to-curbside public transportation system that any resident can take to anywhere within the county. That doesn’t mean a fleet of scheduled busses have set schedules throughout the county. Instead, NCAT is having a “soft opening” meaning the appointment-only transportation service is in operation but transit officials are very hushed about the service because there aren’t many vehicles. “We’re starting small and it’s moving forward,” said Reed Wilson, economic development director for the city of Ottawa. “We are providing rides for people to anywhere in La Salle County but we’re not ready to be swamped with demand.” The federal and state grant-funded NCAT system budget is about $1.4 million annually. The city of Ottawa provides several busses, while Illinois Valley Community Hospital and Horizon House provide small bus and van transportation. “This is not a profit-maker,” Wilson said. “We are starting out modest because of our modest resources.” In 2010, the county board inked a deal with the city of Ottawa to facilitate grant funding for the countywide bus system. Terms of the federal grant required awarded money to be dispersed to a county entity. So as to avoid insurance liability brought on by operating public transit, the county board made the deal with Ottawa, which agreed to administrate the services. Now the program is in place and NCAT officials are slowly advertising its services. “There are no set routes now but if we see a lot of need we could set up set routes,” Wilson said. “We don’t know how far this will grow so we’re trying to move slowly and stay within the framework of the grants.” Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or email@example.com.
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