The Platteville Common Council voted Sept. 23 to give a merger of the city’s Shared Ride Taxi and the UW–Platteville shuttle bus a one-year trial run.
The proposal, which came out of a Southwest Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission study, would increase federal and state funding to $1.40 for every $1 the city and university provide.
The combined service wouldn’t be started until after the 2014–15 UW–Platteville academic year ends, and UWP’s contract with Stratton Buses of Cuba City runs out.
The council voted 5–0, with District 3 Ald. Barb Daus absent and at-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson abstaining.
The unanimous vote wasn’t indicative of the concerns aldermen and one speaker had on combining the services.
“The Common Council does not have the information it needs to make an informed decision,” said Rich Christensen of 10 S. Third St. Christensen called the information given to the council by SWRPC “confusing and misleading” and “a lot of useless information,” adding, “make no mistake — SWRPC has been working for the university.”
Christensen said the services should be combined only “if a significant number of non-students are riding” the shuttle buses.
At-large Ald. Mike Denn noted that 51.4 percent of taxi ridership came from UW–Platteville students. By increasing shuttle routes, he said, “you’ve going to be taking away from the taxi service,” adding, “I don’t see the benefits” of a merger.
Denn also asked about the possibility of the federal government’s reneging on its funding promise. The city receives 58.4 percent of funding for its taxi service from federal and state sources, primarily from federal gas taxes. Universities are not eligible for the federal or state matching funds.
“In the 17 years I’ve been here, none of that has happened,” said Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot.
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian asked “will we have taxi service as good or better than we have now.”
The city spends about $41,000 on the taxi service, while rider fares provide about $75,000, and the federal and state governments provide about $164,000. UW–Platteville’s shuttle is funded by a $30-per-year student fee.
Combining the two services means that the city, UWP students and rider fares would provide 42.6 percent of funding, and the combined service would receive 58.4 percent of its funding from the federal government and the state — an estimated additional $210,000.
The SWRPC study modeled a potential merger on similar combined transit services in Stevens Point, Whitewater and Menominee, each of which has a four-year UW campus.
The council also voted to extend Sunday taxi hours to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the request of taxi users. The Sunday extension was initially proposed along with cutting extended Thursday night service, but the council ultimately decided against cutting Thurdsay service.