Thursday, May 2, 2024

May 1 SMRT ride

We had perfect weather for our May Day Ride SMRT 2 Viroqua. We were joined by former La Crosse County Board chair, Tara Johnson, who was part of the birth of SMRT. The bus was right on time and we spent the whole ride talking transit.

Once in Viroqua, everyone split up to do their own things with return options throughout the afternoon, though we did learn from the driver of our next-to-last bus back that, just this week, the last bus back had been dropped (but it was still on the schedule!)

My daughter and I rented bikes at Bluedog Cycles, right across the street from where we got off the bus, and met up with a friend. We got a delicious take-out lunch from The Noble Rind Cheese Company, then ode to Ekhart Park to eat and chat. We rode to the other end of town to visit more friends and then spent some time at Driftless Books and Music. We returned the bikes and walked to Vernon Memorial Hospital to catch the 3:24 bus back to La Crosse.

The SMRT is such a gem. In a state with no Regional Transit Authority (a governmental entity that allows several counties to work together and levy taxes to provide regional transit) this system, a public-private partnership that DOES provide regional transit for workers, students, patients, youth, elders, the Amish community and more, is really a miracle.

It's a shame that there is almost zero marketing or information about this great service. The website is minimal (no information about requesting a stop at the Amtrak, for example), many of the stops are unmarked or marked incorrectly, there's no way to know in real time if the bus is late or cancelled, and, aside from the LATA SMRT rides, there are no education and outreach events to highlight all the places you can go on the SMRT. We have heard that even employers whose workers use the service do very little promotion. 

After last spring's ride, LATA offered suggestions and volunteered time to help with some of these issues, but we did not hear anything back. We will try again this year and we plan another ride this fall during Week Without Driving.

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