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Sarpy County Companies, Officials Change Transit Program's Routes

Thursday, March 01, 2018


A transportation program in Sarpy County is changing its routes after the first few months provided mixed results.
The program, a collaboration among Oriental Trading Company, Embassy Suites La Vista, the Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce and the Southwest Iowa Transit Agency, began in September after the employers reached out to the chamber in hopes of finding a solution to their struggles to fill open positions.


The issue, the businesses said, was that potential employees weren’t able to get to the west Giles Street businesses, a barrier that kept nearly 50 positions from being filled at Embassy Suites.
“This was a 10-year problem that I had the employers finally just reach out to me and say, ‘Karen, we just don’t have any solutions,’ ” Sarpy County Chamber of Commerce President Karen Gibler said. “So I just brought everyone together and within five months we had an option.”
SWITA provided a grant to get the program started, which used 20-seat vans to transport employees.


Eight or nine Oriental Trading employees used the service during its first few months, talent acquisition manager Tammy Jensen said, a handful of whom were new hires.


The program costs employees $5 round trip, Jensen said, and Oriental Trading pays for the first four weeks for any new hires.
But the program was hampered by low awareness and a limitation on the number of places where the vans could pick up employees.
The new routes will start at the Omni Centre and Micah House in Council Bluffs. One will make stops near 23rd and N Streets near the Latino Center of the Midlands and the Metropolitan Community College south campus while the other will go to the mall at 42nd and Center Streets and then near the intersection of 72nd Street and Ames Avenue.


Vans won’t start driving the routes until the route has at least four riders enrolled to use it, SWITA Transit Director Mark Lander said. As of early last week, neither route was operating, Lander said.
Additional transportation would be a boon for Sarpy County, Jensen said, because more businesses are being built and their employees will need to be able to get there reliably.


“I think it says that we definitely need more transportation available in Sarpy County,” Jensen said of the need. “It benefits all sorts of companies, not just people who are looking for employment. It would even benefit people who are going to shop or spend their money somewhere.”



By Brody Hilgenkamp World-Herald News Service Feb 25, 2018

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