Sunday, March 24, 2019

Budget updates, public discussions

Two La Crosse area budget listening sessions are coming soon. Please attend abd talk about public transportation. 

On Thursday, March 28, a session hosted by Rep Steve Doyle and State Senators Jennifer Shilling and Jeff Smith will be at the Holmen Public Library at 5:30 pm and on Thursday, April 4, Sen Shilling and Rep Jill Billings will hold a session at the Northside Policing Center starting at 5:30 pm. 

Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance has provided this summary of transit related items in Governor Evers' proposed budget:
  • $22 million increase in funding for transit (Sierra Club asked for $36 million)
  • $10 million for transit capital assistance program
  • "Levy limit exclusion," which could accomplish the same thing an RTA could: "The Governor also recommends creating a new levy limit exclusion for new or expanded transit services if those services cross municipal or county boundaries. This exclusion may not be used for any existing services and any amounts claimed must be subject to an intergovernmental cooperation agreement and be approved via referendum by each political subdivision party to the agreement." (Budget in Brief, page 87)
  • $6 million increase in funding for specialized transit (WTRA supported the Disability Rights Coalition ask of $2.8 million ($1.4 million = 10% increase per year)
  • 10% increase to Tribal Elderly Transportation Grants and Paratransit Aid

And VW SETTLEMENT: Half the funding goes toward charging stations and half toward electric buses

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Reminders and a great ad

First, watch this great ad from Toronto public transit. (Thanks for the link, Bridget!)  Would more people think of riding the bus if it were more visible in media? Really, the only time you hear or see anything about taking a bus for transportation is 1) Honeymooners reruns and 2) news reports about accidents. It does make a difference!

Notice: Onalaska Holmen West Salem Shared Ride Public Transit is seeking a new indoor parking place for their fleet of about a dozen vans. Their old place is no longer available because of Onalaska redevelopment. If you know of a facility, please contact Running Inc (608 637-2599). They are also looking for drivers!

Next remember that the annual meeting of Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance is next week - Thursday, March 28 from 11 am to 1 pm at Madison's Mufflin St Public Library. More details here.

And we're still looking for a few good bus advocates to help staff a LATA table near the MTU demo at this year's Earth Fair in Myrick Park on Sunday, April 28. Please sign up if you can help or email if you have questions.

Friday, March 15, 2019

AVL is coming! Plus volunteer opportunity!

Yesterday we learned that the new real time bus tracker is due to be rolled out in April. We saw a demo and it was really cool. You can actually watch your bus moving along its route. No more wondering if the bus has been delayed or if it came early. No more wondering if you'll make your transfer. (At least that's the plan!)

In addition to real time tracking, the app and site will have real time alerts and an easy way to provide feedback. Eventually they also hope to show what events are going on and how to get there by bus.

Along with the new system comes a new voice on the bus. A recorded pleasant voice will announce stops before you get to them, a great help when it's dark or if you're riding on an unfamiliar route.

MTU continues to work on replacing its aged fleet with newer diesels and electric buses. Later this year, work will begin on bus barn upgrades that will allow electric buses to smoothly transition into service.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY! We're hoping to sign up a few good bus advocates to help staff a LATA table near the MTU demo at this year's Earth Fair in Myrick Park on Sunday, April 28. Please sign up if you can help or email if you have questions.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

March 28 in Madison

The Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance will hold its annual meeting on Thursday, March 28 from 11 am to 1 pm at the Madison Public Library, Central Branch, 401 West Mufflin Street. Guest speaker will be Rep. Debra Kolste (D-Janesville), ranking minority leader on the Assembly Transportation Committee. This is a great opportunity for transit riders and advocates from around the state to network, share ideas, and plan future actions. WTRA will officially unveil its updated platform at this meeting. The meeting is free and open to the public.


Now for the reality of life in a state that has not valued public transportation for decades.

You cannot get to Madison for a midday meeting and back to La Crosse in a single day using public transportation. Our regional public transportarion system is a pitiful cruel joke. If you want to use public transit for this meeting, you will have to go a day early and stay overnight in Madison.

The Jefferson Line daily bus from La Crosse to the UW Madison campus leaves at about 3 pm and arrives in Madison at about 6 pm. But coming back, if you want to take the bus, you'll have to stay overnight again because the one bus per day from Madison to La Crosse leaves at about 10:30 am.

You may take Amtrak from La Crosse to Madison, but you will need to go to Milwaukee or Chicago and transfer to a bus that will take you back to Madison and, again, you'll need to go a day early because you'll end up in Madison well after the 11 am meeting start time. Just pitiful.

The "best" public transportation option is to go a day early on Jefferson Lines, stay overnight in Madison (there is a hostel in the downtown area) and return through a booking on Amtrak which will include a bus trip that leaves UW Madison about 2:10 pm to Columbus, WI, a two hour layover there, then a transfer to Amtrak which gets to La Crosse at about 7:15 pm. The timing for other return options (SMRT bus to Tomah, Greyhound to Madison, for example, do not work at all) and would require a second overnight stay.

We may be able to connect a few people to car pool. Please email by March 20 if you are interested. Please note if you can drive and how many spaces you have available OR if you need a ride. Plan to bring a bag lunch for yourself.

The Wisconsin Transit Riders Alliance is a growing statewide federation of transit riders and supporters working to improve transit across Wisconsin. Join us as we help bring Wisconsin’s transportation system into the 21st Century.


On a somewhat related issue, WisARP, the Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers, has recently announced that the Rail Passengers Association (formerly the National Assoc. of RR Passengers) has produced a report on the impact of a second frequency on the Chicago - Twin Cities Amtrak route. 

The second frequency will be one of the main topics for review and discussion at the WisARP Spring Meeting which will be Martch 30th in Portage.  Registration information will be available soon.

Thank you!

[Apologies for delay in posting this! It was in the drafts folder and was never finalized until today.]

About ten of us met with "new" MTU manager Adam Lorentz on January 24 at the People's Food Co-op to hear the lastest updates about the MTU. First, thank you to Mr. Lorentz for taking the time to meet and talk with us. Second, thank to PFC for hosting our event.

Adam talked about plans for the upcoming year. The AVL (real time bus tracker) roll out has been delayed so all the bugs can be worked out before people start using it. Several of us noted that it would be super convenient during very cold weather. Look for the ability to find out where your bus is later in the spring. They are still looking at different ways for Apple to access the system. Stay tuned.

The MTU will be working with school children on a paint the bus project this spring, too. Students will submit design ideas and those chosen will be transferred to buses that travel through the schools' neighborhoods.

We talked about shelters, possibly adding new ones or moving some from less used to more frequently used stops (this data and much more will be available with the AVL). Possibly some shelter or bench contests or adoptions could give neighborhoods more pride in their bus routes. We also asked budget questions and learned a bit more about the many entities that provide MTU funding.

It was a great meeting and those who attended had good opportunities to learn and ask questions. We hope to set up more meetings with public transportation leaders and planners in the area this spring.