“I was put in the lead of the River Cities Public Transit (RCPT) on November 1, 2001, with four employees and myself, an annual budget of $179,000, and a debt of $125,000,” said Ron Baumgart, of Pierre, director of the RCPT. “The RCPT was in dire straights. I had lots of help in turning it around. As a former county commissioner, I mustered up support to get it [the debt] back to zero … it was three months before I could cash my own paycheck.”
Baumgart is being inducted into the South Dakota Transportation Hall of Honor. The Transportation Hall of Honor committee will hold a banquet in Baumgart’s honor on Thursday, Sept. 5, at Drifters Bar and Grill in Fort Pierre. Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. (CDT), with dinner at 6 p.m., followed by the program at 7 p.m.
“Ron has spent the past 18 years as the director of River Cities Public Transit in Pierre,” said DOT Public Relations Officer Kristi Sandal. “His contribution to the transit industry is unparalleled. He has spent his career looking for new ways to improve the transit systems across the state of South Dakota. As a leader, Ron has received national awards for his success in integrating his business principles into rural public transit. Ron’s passion for low-cost, high-value public transit is reflected in the continued success of RCPT. Ron’s determination to secure funding from a variety of sources helped him realize his vision of reliable public transit for everyone, but especially veterans and those with disabilities.”
RCPT is a private nonprofit agency dedicated to providing transportation services to individuals with disabilities, the elderly, low income and the general public of Hughes, Stanley, Hand, Hyde, Dewey Ziebach, Haakon, East Pennington, North half of Jackson, Jones and Lyman counties.
The RCPT provides quality, dependable and efficient transportation for central South Dakota. RCPT receives funds for the operation of the project from federal, state and local sources. These funds help keep RCPT fares affordable to the riders in this region who have minimal funds available for transportation, but still need to be mobile in their communities.
RCPT has added four satellite agencies under its umbrella: Cheyenne River Sioux Transit, East Pennington County Transit, Haakon County Prairie Transit and Hyde County Transit. These agencies are noted for providing transportation for medical appointments, Veterans and youth.
“In 2019, we have just less than 100 employees — 75 full-time — in our Pierre area operations. We have 22 people, and that many busses, in Yankton. We have six full-time employees in Sioux Falls. Cheyenne and Haakon County and our other satellites, making up 11 mid-state counties, are included in our Pierre area operation. The RCPT is a $5.8 million funds operation, with $1 million in capital expenses such as busses, software and other purchases. Our total vehicles is right at 100, with quite of variety in the fleet.”
Most of the maintenance for the mid-state part of the RCPT is done in the Pierre shop. “We do most of it ourselves,” said Baugart. “To my knowledge, it is the only rural public transportation in the nation that works 24 hours seven days a week.”
“I still enjoy it,” said Baumgart. “Seriously, I didn’t get this honor without a great staff. Last couple of years we figured out how to operate as a team; a tremendous asset to the company. I’m sure I’m the first honoree who has something just with public transportation. It’s getting public transportation recognized, that’s important.”
The state Transportation Hall of Honor was started in 1972 and has 91 inductees, including Baumgart. The Hall is “to recognize those individuals who have made a lasting, valuable or unique contribution to South Dakota’s air, highway, public transit or rail transportation system,” according to the DOT’s news release.
Cost of the banquet is $30 with payment requested in advance. To make reservations and payments, call Kari Kroll, executive secretary, at 605-773-5105 no later than September 2.