Free F-M downtown bus route faces discontinuation

The Moorhead city council is considering the possible discontinuation or modification of LinkFM, the free public bus that circulates through downtown Fargo-Moorhead. Fargo eliminated funding for the route in its 2020 budget. David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD — It appears a free bus route linking downtown Fargo and Moorhead will be ending at the end of the year.

Ridership on the free "LinkFM" wasn't found to be financially feasible, according to Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney.

The "circulator route" started in 2015 and, at an annual cost of about $231,700 split between the two cities, was intended to provide easy access to downtown Fargo, alleviate parking concerns with easy access to parking near the Moorhead Center Mall and serve as an economic development tool.

The route circulated through the two downtowns every 15 minutes with stops at the mall and Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead and at the library, along Broadway, at the post office, federal court building and downtown bus depot in Fargo.

Yearly ridership, however, was only at about 25,000 per year with the highest number of riders at about 100 per month during the morning rush hour and 220 per month during the evening commute.


During special events, the usage would spike, and Mahoney said they are still considering offering the service during such events as the three-day Downtown Fargo Street Fair, the two-day Scandinavian Festival at the Hjemkomst Center and the TedX gathering in Fargo.

Other possible options are a Saturday route with a $1 fare at an annual cost of $24,000 per year, or a year-round Thursday through Saturday route with a price tag of about $100,000, with the cost of both options split between the cities.

A public meeting and hearings are scheduled this week and into December for citizen input on the decision. Fargo scheduled a public informational meeting on ending the proposed route at the downtown Ground Transportation Center from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13. A public hearing will then be held at the Fargo City Commission meeting on Nov. 18.

Moorhead's City Council will discuss the route at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12, with a public hearing at 5:45 p.m. on Dec. 9 at City Hall.

Mahoney said one of the concerns a few years back was where all of the construction workers, including the 100 to 200 working on the 18-story Block 9 building, would park. However, with the opening of the Block 9 and Roberts Street ramps, the parking shortage has eased for them and other downtown visitors.

The mayor said Block 9 construction workers, who never parked on downtown streets, park in the lesser-used downtown Island Park ramp or in the Block 9 ramp.

Moorhead City Council member Sara Watson Curry, a liaison to the metro transit system, said she has mixed feelings about eliminating the route, but will likely support just keeping the route for major events. She added that there are other ways that MATBUS can increase ridership. One example, she said, is a planned app that will allow riders to pay their fares on their cellphones.

She also said the money saved by eliminating the free route could be used to help pay for recently approved increased pay for city bus drivers. There was a major shortage of drivers, but Watson Curry said it appears they could be at full staff soon.


If the LinkFM route is canceled, riders will still be able to connect between the two downtowns. The route would be every half hour instead of 15 minutes, and riders would have to pay regular bus fare.

The LinkFM bus stops Monday, Nov. 11, at a bus shelter bear Moorhead Center Mall. Fargo eliminated funding for the bus in its 2020 budget and the Moorhead City Council will consider its future Tuesday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

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