WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) - Now that Weston, Schofield, and Rothschild have come to an agreement in principle to restore municipal bus service to the south metro, what does that mean to you?
Metro Ride’s Director Greg Seubert says the new service will not be the same as the old service, and Rothschild residents will see the biggest difference. "We had covered the entire length of Rothschild. In this case, we're only getting to Shopko in Rothschild, so we're only just getting into the village, so much of it will be unserved.” That also means Rothschild will have less paratransit service, since very little of the village is close to the bus route.
Municipalities had schedule choices. “Plan A” would have had bus service only during peak hours with no service between 9:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. This option would also have meant no paratransit service in that midday gap. Metro Ride Director Greg Seubert says the municipalities chose “Plan B” which is good news for disabled riders. "There will be two trips in the morning, two over the lunch hour, and then three in the afternoon. The splits there are not sufficient enough that we could discontinue paratransit service during those gaps. Administratively, it would just be too difficult, it will be provided all day long.”Seubert says the municipalities chose the more expensive of the two options, and he believes the riders will benefit. "From a cost perspective, the first proposal with the big gap is, I think, the more cost-effective proposal. On the other hand, the second proposal from a customer service perspective is the one. It provided, I think, better coverage throughout the day and it extends that paratransit service throughout the day."Re-establishing bus and paratransit service to the communities of Weston, Rothschild, and Schofield means Wausau’s Metro Ride has a lot to do very quickly. "We haven't begun the hiring process yet, so, we're going to have to get a couple of people and put up some bus stop signs, then get some public information out there. We've got a lot to do in just a matter of weeks."The preliminary figures project Metro Ride’s annual operating costs at 1-point-2 million dollars. Weston’s share would be just over $45,000. Schofield would pay nearly $29,000, and Rothschild would pay nearly $8,800.
Seubert says the most difficult part of the cost projection is the paratransit service, since he’s not sure just how many of those rides will be requested. He says many of the paratransit system users were forced to relocate when bus service was discontinued, so he cannot accurately project that cost based on past ridership.