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Cedar County Transit goes the extra mile

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HARTINGTON — When Brenda Tyndall sees the white van with the red arrow logo pull into her driveway, she knows she’s in good hands.

Brenda and her husband, Joel, Hartington, call on Cedar County Transit to take them to the veterinarian so their chihuahua, Abby, can get her shots.

Joel gets a lift to and from dialysis three times a week.

Brenda calls on the transit when she needs a ride into town, to the recycling center or pharmacy.

“They work with us so well. They have been a God-send. I don’t know what we’d do without transit,” she said.

The Tyndalls stopped driving in 2017 and relied on friends, family and neighbors for all their transportation needs, which wasn’t always ideal

After trying Cedar County Transit, they realized they’d found a solution that went the extra mile.

It’s the small-town personal touch Tyndall enjoy the most, driving home the point that the drivers are not only friendly and caring but also punctual and flexible.

“They get to know the people they drive. They make you feel welcome. The drivers are just amazing. I could sing their praises all day,” she said.

Cedar County Transit employs 10 part-time drivers with a fleet of 10 vans - 5 of those handicapped accessible, said Transit Manager Nikki Pinkelman.

When Pinkelman started five years ago, the fleet consisted of two vans and one bus and was branded as the Handibus. There was one person who took care of it all - from receiving calls and scheduling rides to doing the actual driving.

“We just wanted to get away from that stigma (of the Handibus) and it didn’t fit because it’s for everyone - handicapped or not,” she said. “We just go by ‘The Transit’ now.”

Along with the 10 drivers, Cedar County Transit also employs a full-time scheduler, Shelly Becker. Last Fall, the facility acquired software to make operations more efficient and improve scheduling, paperwork and reporting.

“Drivers were doing pen and paper and you have to track everything when you’re federally funded. Now they all have tablets,” she said. (Cedar County Transit is funded federally through the Federal Transit Administration and also through Cedar County.)

Also last Fall, construction began on a brand new Cedar County Transit facility on Highway 84 east of Hartington.

The building is picking up speed with completion just around the bend - hopefully in a few weeks, Pinkelman said, and will include space to house all vehicles, a wash bay, office, restrooms and meeting room.

“I’m so excited to have it all under one roof,” she said. “Communication will improve greatly, all being in one area.”

Drivers are most excited about keeping vehicles inside - reducing the amount of ice and snow scraped off windshields in the winter.

Cedar County Transit also now accepts payment from Nebraska Medicaid sources of Total Care and United Healthcare, and transit fares are kept at a reasonable cost.

Just in the first eight months of 2021, the transit service hit the road more than 3,500 times, and logged an average of 10,000-12,000 miles each month.

For all of her work over the past year, it didn’t come as a surprise to drivers nor riders that Pinkelman was awarded the Manager of the Year Award from the Nebraska Association of Transportation Providers at its annual meeting last month. Becker nominated her for

Becker nominated her for the award.

Pinkelman received the Rookie Manager of the Year Award in 2019.

Pinkelman said the awards are nice recognition, but the best part of her job is knowing she can be of service to the Tyndalls and others who rely on Cedar County transit.

“I really enjoy working with all the people in our community and helping our riders,” she said. “It gives me pride knowing I am making a difference in someone’s life.”

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