Public bus transportation usage could see increase in Dunn Count - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Public bus transportation usage could see increase in Dunn County

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Menomonie (WQOW) - The wheels on the bus could soon be logging more miles in Menomonie. A city commission is looking at increasing services to residents.

The hope is to grow the city's bus routes, and down the road, they would like to be able to link up with Eau Claire.

Public transportation has been missing in Dunn County.

"The transit system in Menomonie quit operating in the 1960's. It's been that period of time since there's been any regular transit system," said Kent Conklin, Dunn County Transit Department Head.

But it could be making a comeback thanks to the Dunn County Transit Commission, which is hoping to add new bus routes within Menomonie and beyond.

"What you have in Menomonie is a lot of rental housing all over the community, but you have a really high portion of rental housing on the south end. And you have a lot of jobs and services on the North end, and the campus in the center of town," Conklin said.

In 2011 a small bus route was revived, mostly for UW-Stout students.

"The North-South route is a one hour loop, and we're finding that people don't want to really be in a bus for an hour, they'd rather it be shorter, like 15 minutes," said Conklin.

The commission is planning to break that into two smaller loops. They would also add an additional route.

"What we don't have right now is services to the east end of town, and that's where your hospital, job service, DMV. They basically don't have regular scheduled route bus service right now. We hope to implement that in the next few months," Conklin said.

The hope is that service will eventually extend beyond city limits. A survey done by UW-Stout shows growing interest in a route between Menomonie and Eau Claire.

"You have a college campus in Eau Claire, a college campus in Menomonie, and you have two communities that are quite close together," said Conklin.

A mix of UW-Stout student fees, local funds and state transportation dollars must all be approved in order to begin moving forward. Bus fares would also factor in.

"You build ridership; it just doesn't happen all at once. So we have challenges facing us in terms of revenue," Conklin said.

The hope is to add in the additional route through the city of Menomonie by the end of February.

But the bus route between Eau Claire and Menomonie is in the early stages of planning and could be a few years away.

Typically the city has 5 buses running, and could add as many as 3 more with the addition of new routes.

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