West River Transit began with a grant application in 1975. It was submitted to the Federal Highway Administration by the ND Highway Department to “demonstrate an innovative rural public transportation program in a multi-county region adjacent to Bismarck.”
In 1976, eight wheelchair lift and radio-equipped mini-buses, eight mobile desk radios, and one spare 18 passenger mini-bus were purchased. In March 1977, the vehicles and equipment were delivered to Beulah, Center, Glen Ullin, Hazen, New Salem, Stanton, Underwood, and Washburn. If the cities chose to operate the transit system, they were named the owners of the buses. If someone else decided to operate the buses on behalf of the community, that person or organization was offered a two-year lease. The spare bus was located in Hazen.
The State Highway Department provided technical assistance to the locals assisting in establishing volunteer “Transportation Associations” to oversee the management of the bus service. Recognizing the need for coordination of effort and additional funding, a council was organized with a representative from each of the Transportation Associations. This body was incorporated as West River Transportation Council, a non-profit corporation, on March 30, 1977 and an administrator was hired.
Since its beginning, the West River Transportation Council experienced many changes including the transfer of buses from one community to another, funding and grant changes, and a name change to West River Transit in 2005. The goal has remained the same through it all: to enhance the mobility and accessibility of all residents in the rural communities that West River Transit serves.