Tri-Valley Opportunity Council Rural Transportation
- Need: Public transportation options in a rural 8-county area in northwest Minnesota.
- Intervention: A coordinated public transportation and volunteer driver system which serves northwest Minnesota.
- Results: Increased ridership and affordable access to transportation for residents of 8 counties in rural, northwest Minnesota.
In 2002, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council assumed
responsibility for coordinating a public transportation
system (Tri-Valley Heartland Express) and volunteer
driver system (Rural Transportation Collaborative) to
serve a sparsely populated, very rural 8-county area
covering northwest Minnesota. Transportation systems like
Tri-Valley Opportunity Council that operate across county
lines are unusual, but economical and beneficial to rural
Tri-Valley, which had provided transportation for human
service needs since 1975, was one of several area
agencies involved in providing public transportation in
northwest Minnesota. In order to become more efficient
and effective, funding from the Minnesota Department of
Human Services was used to put all agencies' vehicles
under one coordination practice that Tri-Valley
Opportunity Council operates. Tri-Valley has increased
usage, eliminated duplicate services, and is operating in
This system is available to anyone who wishes to use it,
regardless of age or income level. Users can call a
central number to schedule a ride, or can access
Tri-Valley Heartland Express buses that follow a
published schedule of stops throughout the 8-county area.
Rural Transportation Collaborative volunteers, driving
their own vehicles and receiving mileage expenses but no
pay, fill in the gaps to provide rides unavailable
through the scheduled bus system. These volunteers must
complete a background check and the educational program.
- Tri-Valley Heartland Express bus provides public
transportation in handicapped accessible buses.
Curb-to-curb service is available. All routes are demand
response, although some routes are scheduled out of city
limits on a deviated route basis. This service is
provided seven days a week.
- Tri-Valley Heartland Express also operates Summer
Fun/Recreation buses for children in some communities.
- Rural Transportation Collaborative (RTC) coordinates
volunteer drivers to transport people for medical
appointments, education, work activities, child
visitations, or other personal matters. RTC volunteer
drivers are available 7 days a week with extended hours.
- Jefferson Bus Lines stops twice daily for passengers.
Tickets are available at Tri-Valley's office, located at 1345 Fairfax Avenue in Crookston, Minnesota.
In 2021, Tri-Valley Opportunity Council helped people
obtain access to reliable transportation in the form of 112,369 rides. Of these rides, 156,641 were through the
Tri-Valley Heartland Express, while the remaining ones
were through the Rural Transportation Collaborative.
Tri-Valley Heartland Express was one of three transit
companies that received the
2016 Award for Outstanding Public Transportation Service
in Rural Public Transportation from the U.S.
Department of Transportation Federal Transit
Administration (FTA). Awardees were selected from other
transportation services across the United States for
showing outstanding work to "improve the mobility of
Americans in rural areas and enhanced access to
employment, healthcare, and community services."
- Keeping transportation affordable for riders, but
remaining financially viable
- Sparse resources in a dispersed population means
covering a large geographic area with a minimal number of
vans/buses, few personnel, and small budgets
- Lack of available funds for transportation programs
in northern Minnesota is a barrier for the sustainability
of a rural transit program.
In order for a program like this to be financially
successful, dedication to grant acquisition must be a
priority. Ridership costs would be too high for people if
the program had to be completely self-sustaining based on
Community engagement and volunteerism
July 18, 2008
Date updated or reviewed
October 31, 2022
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Tri-Valley Opportunity Council Rural Transportation [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 2 February 2023]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.