A first of its kind bus service connecting communities from Salina to the Nebraska border is going strong. OCCK Transportation established four years ago the 81 Connection, the fixed route bus service that runs from Belleville to Salina each weekday.
According to the organization, 81 Connection is a fixed route bus service that goes from Belleville to Salina along Interstate 135/Highway 81. It began running on September 5, 2017. Since inception, 81 Connection has provided more than 8,000 rides to passengers in north central Kansas, with trips being taken for employment, shopping, medical, tourism, and more. More than 1,800 trips have originated in Belleville, with another 2,500 in Concordia, almost 1,500 in Minneapolis, and almost 2,400 in Salina. Ridership continues to rebound after the reduced service of the pandemic.
“For four years, 81 Connection has offered residents reliable rides throughout this north central Kansas corridor,” said Michelle Griffin, Mobility Manager for north central Kansas. “We look forward to continuing our work to extend transportation options like 81 Connection and further connect our communities with affordable transit options.”
The 81 Connection bus service has three bi-directional trips each day, Monday through Friday. The first route starts in Belleville at 6:45 a.m., with two stops, then heads south on Highway 81 to four stops in Concordia, a stop at the Highway 24/Highway 81 junction, a stop in Minneapolis and stops at 7th and Walnut and Wal-Mart in Salina and then heads back to north to the same stops. The bus runs this loop twice and finishes in Belleville around 5:50 p.m. each day.
A second bus leaves Salina at 1:00 p.m. and heads north on Highway 81 to the same stop in Minneapolis, the stop at the Highway 24/Highway 81 junction, four stops in Concordia and the two stops in Belleville, before heading back to Salina with the same stops. The bus finishes in Salina around 6:00 p.m. each day.
“We are thrilled to celebrate this fourth anniversary of 81 Connection and reaffirm OCCK’s commitment to making public transportation in north central Kansas more affordable, accessible, and efficient for all of those who rely on it,” said OCCK Transportation Director Trell Grinter. “We are also very proud to be one of the few regional fixed route systems serving Kansas, especially rural Kansans, who need to travel to reach services, employment, shopping and other things.”
Passengers interested in riding 81 Connection have many options, including attending an 81 Connection Familiarization virtual class to learn how to ride the bus. The next class will be held on September 16th at 9:30 a.m. More information and sign ups can be found at www.salinacitygo.com under Guide and Go Travel Training.
81 Connection riders can use either Google Maps or Apple Maps to plan their trips and get directions easily with a smart phone or computer. The Google Maps service can be used on computers by going to the Google Maps website or on mobile phones and devices that use the Google Maps app. The Apple Maps service can be used on Apple mobile phones and devices that use the Apple Maps app.
81 Connection riders also have the option of paying with digital fares using Token Transit, the new mobile ticketing program that allows passengers to pay fares, without touching cash or tickets and coupons. The app is free and is available in both the Apple and Google Play stores. Using Token Transit eliminates the need for hard surface contact between drivers and passengers for fares. It is a cashless, cardless, and contactless payment solution. This partnership provides riders with a new level of convenience that eliminates the need for carrying cash.
A partnership with Cloud County Community College in Concordia allows faculty, staff, and students to ride at no charge. OCCK can provide information to agencies looking for partnerships like this.
81 Connection is operated by OCCK, Inc. in partnership with the Kansas Department of Transportation, Ottawa County Transportation and Solomon Valley Transportation.
For more information about 81 Connection, go to www.salinacitygo.com.