The Platteville Common Council voted 6–1 Sept. 22 to spend about $5,000 for 250 more hours of Platteville Public Transportation taxi service for the rest of the year.
The service increase is the result of an increase in taxi ridership since Platteville Cab Service went out of business earlier this year following the death of its owner, Merle Forbes, in 2014.
A staff memo said that “ridership and wait times have increased significantly,” though it did not give numbers measuring increases in wait times.
Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot said PPT ridership increased 4.6 percent from July 2014 to July 2015, 15.6 percent from August 2014 to August 2015, and 5.6 percent over all of last year just through Aug. 31.
The taxi set a record of 172 riders on 145 trips Sept. 3, easily beating the previous record of 125 trips. Expanding service on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. also resulted in a 130-percent increase in ridership in August 2015 from one year earlier, Crofoot said.
The PPT taxi serves 24 dialysis appointments per week, with return trip wait times of 30 to 60 minutes, Crofoot said.
Crofoot said taxi operator Running, Inc., “needs to manage its driver hours,” though he added a service increase will be included in the city’s proposed 2016 budget.
When asked by District 3 Ald. Barb Daus whether city staff attempted to find money to fund the service increase, Crofoot said, “We don’t have significant revenues for the bus system. The major source of revenue is the university’s payment that’s fixed for this year.”
The lack of statistical evidence of longer wait times prompted city resident Rich Christenson to ask, “Has any solid numerical data regarding long wait times been presented?”
Christenson said the wait time issue was “simple supply and demand … hours of the day, days of the week, and weeks of the year. … I don’t think the taxi service is being efficiently managed,” and, he said, the city should “demand good data and the information it needs” before approving a service increase.
“How many times must empty buses drive by before somebody starts asking questions?” he said.
“It’s certainly obvious that ridership has increased,” said Daus. “It’s harder to take from the data provided that wait time has increased.”
District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen said she saw buses that leave Rountree Commons full. “I think it is being used,” she said.
At-large Ald. Mike Denn voted against the service increase “without adequate information” being provided.