With Metro Transit bus service in its second week, the city is getting its first official peek at rider numbers, as one city alder considers future route needs.
Metro Transit reported 338 rides the first week of service and 380 rides the second week with four-day shortened Labor Day schedule.
City Planner Philip Gritzmacher Jr. told the Sun Prairie Transit Commission that the preliminary ridership numbers show strong demand for the route that started Aug. 26.
“The city has noticed a positive trajectory in ridership and park and ride utilization since the launch of the service and I anticipate that will continue as more residents become aware of the service,” Gritzmacher said.
Route 23 route gives riders morning and afternoon peak service between the Capital Square and Sun Prairie with limited East Washington Avenue stops.
Bus stops include Hoepker Road, Legacy Way, Blue Aster Boulevard, W. Main Street and O’Keeffe Avenue and a park and ride lot at O’Keeffe Avenue and Reiner Road.
City officials reported the park and ride lot has had roughly 50 percent usage so far with commuters and carpoolers.
With the launch of the bus service, the city is planning another transportation survey to gauge interest in the service.
“We will use the survey to gauge the interest in bus service, where they are going and where they want to get on and use that information to develop routes, which we would then take to the public,” Gritzmacher said.
Gritzmacher said the city wants feedback from underserved residents.
During the planning stage of the Metro Transit service, the city faced criticism that the route didn’t meet the needs of seniors and people in lower-income neighborhoods.
Gritzmacher, who updated Transit Commission members on the launch Sept. 9, said a survey is the first step in many to expand service. But he suggested that the city commits to the current service for a year, with no major route changes, to give it a chance to establish.
District 4 Alder and Transit Commission Chair Al Guyant said his goal is to bring bus service to people with disabilities, or those who can’t or no longer want to drive, and who can’t afford a vehicle.
Guyant pushed for funding of a transportation study and hiring a consultant to look at future bus service needs.
The city could apply for a grant to fund the costs.
The Transit Commission chair said it could be tough to get a budget initiative passed for 2020, but he was hopeful.
“The support of the many alders is strong in an expansion of services to the low income, etc. etc, so it’s got a fighting chance,” Guyant said at the Sept. 9 Transit Committee meeting.
The Transit Committee approved Guyant’s motion to for staff to draft a 2020 budget initiative for a transportation survey and hiring a consultant.
City transportation news
The city’s proposed 2020 budget for the shared-ride taxi and Metro Transit express bus is just over $1.4 million. That’s $1,070,055 for shared taxi service and $390,612 for the Metro Transit service. Both services are funded through state aid, fare revenue, and also city funds—$235,412 for the shared ride and $107,415 for the bus service.
• The city contracts with Running Inc. to operate its shared-ride taxi service. With the contract set to end this year, the city is requesting proposals from companies to run the service. The Sun Prairie City Council is expected to vote on contracts in November.