Community voices need for public transportation


Brookings community members want expanded transportation options for the city. 

The first steps of a city-wide comprehensive plan started last week with the community kick-off meeting at the Brookings Activity Center. 

“We’re really excited to have many voices around the table,” Brookings City Planner Staci Bungard said. “We really are interested in looking at what areas are available for development in the future.” 

About 30 members of the community, including South Dakota State alumni, attended the Brookings comprehensive plan kick-off meeting to voice concerns for the city and ideas for the future of Brookings.  

A comprehensive plan contains multiple elements, according to Amy Haase, senior partner at the Omaha-based urban development firm RDG Planning and Design. A long-term land use plan for the community is one idea, which helps city council, developers and residents understand what direction their city will grow in the future.  

“It’s also an opportunity for a community to think strategically about where they are today and where they think they would like to be in the future,” Haase said. “What are some strategic projects, programs, policies that would really help support the community and quality that we have today, and maybe increase some areas where we could be even stronger than we are today.” 

Topics discussed include infrastructure, industrial zoning, economic development and many others, but focus repeatedly fell on transportation.

In relation to the Brookings Area Transit Authority (BATA), there were thoughts on ways to help “people get around better, helping alleviate some parking congestion, particularly in our university neighborhoods, but also serving those who need to be commuting into town,” Bungard said. 

Some in attendance emphasized the need to look at different modes of transportation, including possibilities of a bike sharing system. Another person voiced the need for education and more awareness about what public transportation is currently available in Brookings. The importance of awareness about what transportation services the city of Brookings provides was frequently addressed. 

Students seem to be familiar with the Saferide program, Bungard said, but are not familiar with other services BATA offers, including daily trips to Sioux Falls.

According to Bungard, the city not only wants to focus on modes of transportation, but also ways to relieve congestion on high traffic roads such as Sixth Street, 22nd Street and Main Street. 

“We have an overall pretty good transportation system, I believe, for our size,” Bungard said. “However, there is a lot of opportunities to look at connection, so that someone may have more available routes.”

In terms of growth, emphasis was put on Brookings retaining graduating students, as well as ways to continue positive cooperation between the city and SDSU. 

“Our intent is trying to engage the students,” said Mike Struck, Brookings community development director. “What are some things, as a current student, what would be enticing for you to possibly make Brookings your current residence?”

RDG was hired as a third-party consultant to oversee the comprehensive plan, something the city has not done since the 1960s. 

“We’re very early in the stages of this whole process,” Struck said. “We’re looking at, probably, end of the year we’d have a draft [of the plan] available.”