FARGO — Fargo city commissioners voted unanimously Monday, Dec. 2 to only run a LinkFM bus for special events in Fargo and Moorhead.
Assistant Transit Director Matt Peterson said the estimated cost for the "large bus" service would cost about $19,000, with the expenses to be shared between the two cities for 13 major events, including the three-day Fargo Downtown Street Fair and the two-day Scandinavian Festival at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead.
Other planned events for using the special bus include parades and major conferences, including TEDxFargo.
Moorhead's City Council must also approve the plan.
Commissioners rejected a suggestion by MATBUS officials to offer the service Thursdays through Saturdays year-round at a cost of about $114,000. They also turned down a plan to run the bus for almost 200 events in the two cities at a cost of about $71,000.
Earlier this year, Fargo commissioners approved in its budget eliminating the lightly used LinkFM that ran Monday through Saturday every 15 minutes through Fargo and Moorhead free of charge. The service, which meant to alleviate parking concerns, has been available since 2015 and costs about $232,000 annually.
The service will end Dec. 31.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, who had contacted Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd, said the neighboring city also didn't include the higher funding for continuing the more expansive LinkFM service in their budget.
Moorhead was more concerned about possibly figuring out how to alleviate traffic jams for the many events at the Bluestem Amphitheater by possibly using transit funds for that bus service.
Peterson said because federal funding is used for transit services, he received approval from federal officials for the route for special events as long as the cities don't charge a fare and don't take donations.
Commissioner John Strand asked Peterson if autonomous or self-driving buses might be in the near future as a possible option for the service.
Peterson said it could be years away, although Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said he and Strand rode such a bus in San Antonio at a conference and said the LinkFM route could be an ideal candidate.
"I don't think it's that far away," Piepkorn said.
Meanwhile, MATBUS still offers a route between the two downtowns but it isn't free and runs every half hour.