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Transit looking for a few good drivers

Hiawathaland Transit operates several bus routes with stops around Red Wing, Northfield and Faribault, Minn., but the community non-profit program also offers something a little more personal.

The Hiawathaland Auxiliary Regional Transit, or HART, program partners volunteer drivers with Goodhue, Rice and Wabasha County residents who aren’t able to access other public transportation options — and more drivers are needed, volunteer coordinator Tambi Eversman said.

HART helps residents reach destinations outside of Hiawathaland Transit’s usual service area and hours, Eversman said. “Instead of telling individuals that we would not be able to assist them, we implemented an additional program that would allow us to meet the needs of these clients.”

Drivers choose their own schedule and preferred travel area, the organization says. Hiawathaland Transit dispatchers then contact volunteers when a community member requests a ride that fits their criteria.

Possible routes include one-way or round-trip travel to medical appointments, shopping centers and entertainment spots between Rochester and the Twin Cities.

The organization doesn’t pressure drivers to accept a ride if they don’t want to, said Jerry Dooley of Red Wing, who has volunteered with HART for a little over a year. Many of the rides also are scheduled weeks in advance, so there are no surprises.

Hiawathaland Transit requires that riders give a minimum 48-hour advance notice for assistance. Requests for transportation for medical emergencies or to destinations that could adversely affect the health of the rider will not the granted, the organization says.

Certain riders can utilize the program for free, but drivers always get a mileage reimbursement at the current IRS rate. All rider fees are handled through Hiawathaland Transit and drivers are not required to take any payment from passengers, according to program literature.

Hiawathaland Transit touts the HART program as a way to build connections and help people in the community, something Dooley said he enjoys.

“In all cases the people seem to appreciate the assistance we provide,” he said. “And that’s the rewarding thing about it.”

Hiawathaland Transit is run by Three Rivers Community Action, a non-profit corporation that provides local support and education services. The organization works primarily with low-income families in southeastern Minnesota, according to its website.

“This is a good service to consider,” Dooley said, so long as prospective volunteers like driving.

To qualify as a driver, volunteers must be at least 21 years old and have a good driving record, valid license, reliable vehicle and current auto insurance. For more information on HART or to apply as a driver, call 866-623-7505 or email

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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