PINE RIDGE, S.D. — For the people living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, traveling to Rapid City may soon be as simple as hopping on a bus.

The Oglala Sioux Transit bus system is planning to expand its bus routes to include service to Rapid City as early as this summer, said Oglala Sioux Transit Coordinator Emma Featherman Sam.

She said the primary goal of the expanded route would be for residents to be able to receive medical service in Rapid City, which is more than two hours away, but "if someone wants to jump on, they can."

Fares will probably range from $10 to $20 for a one-way ticket.

"It will be really helpful for our residents," said Oglala Sioux Vice President Tom Poor Bear.

The Oglala Sioux Transit began offering bus service within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation three years ago. It gives many of the reservation's 47,000 residents a way to get around the reservation — one of the country's largest — without having to walk, hitchhike or ask friends or relatives for a ride.

The bus system covers more than 1,400 miles daily across 16 of the main villages on the reservation, Featherman Sam said. There are 35 stops along six routes. The longest stretch extends from Wanblee in the far east of the reservation to the tribe's Prairie Wind Casino on the western side.

One-way fares range from $1 to $5, while a roundtrip costs $2 to $8. The majority of funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration.

More than 70,000 people used the service since it started in 2009, Featherman Sam said. The fleet includes three 22-passenger busses and five 16-passenger busses.

She said the bus system is especially helpful for older residents, who account for about one-third of the adult passengers.

"I think it has just showed them they have independence," she said, noting that buses are wheelchair-accessible and drivers will pick up the disabled at their home.

"It's like curb side pickup without the curb," she said

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