The fate of Weston's busing is being postponed. The Village of Weston's Community Life and Public Safety Committee met Monday and decided to put off making a decision and instead discuss their options on whether or not they will continue to use the Wausau Metro Ride busing system as their funds continue to grow tighter.
In 2012 the village had a $1 million operating deficit and made dramatic cuts, but the use of Wausau metro bus route K for 2013-2014 passed a referendum in June of 2012 despite a lack of money to fund it.
In January of 2013, the route was put in place with seven run times a day verses its previous twelve. This year's budget has dropped almost 25% from $41 million to $32 million and that money is expected to continue to go down as cuts to state-shared revenue to municipal governments continue.
"It's vital to me to have bus service," said rider and bus advocate with an interfaith social group called NAOMI, Kathi Zoern. "It's my independence to get to anywhere in the community."
The committee was educated on what options are available at the meeting on Monday and need to decide whether or not they will keep using Wausau's buses, and if they do, how they plan to do it without going over budget. In November 2012, a tax raise that would help fund the bus route K was proposed and shot down by the public.
The City of Wausau encouraged the committee to continue it.
"For most of these folks, this is the only form of transportation and the only way they can get around," said Wausau District 11 Council and Transit Committee Member, Robert Mielke. "We can find the funding. Hopefully it will work out and continue being a good thing for both the village and the city itself."
Five routes have been proposed including one from the NAOMI group that would expand into Rothschild. They said it will double the service area, reduce the mileage, and provide para-transport for more people. They also hope to get more run times. They said the few runs at odd hours bring down ridership.
"Because of the sporadic service, people get stranded," said NAOMI bus advocate Mark Timken. "They don't know how to use it and it definitely has affected how many riders are on."
Rider Virginia Korleski knows that difficulty all too well.
"Trying to calculate those times is very hard. One time I over slept because of medication and missed my para-transit so I used the regular transit. I managed to remember where the bus stop is to get on the bus to be able to make it to my appointment and I just made it," she said.
"If there's no public transportation many people can't afford a taxi and it's their independence to get around the community and participate in the community," said Zoern.
This affect is why the committee has postponed to discuss their options.
"We're going to sit there and work with trustees, we're going to work with committee members, we're going to work with citizens that care about costs and their taxes and we're going to work with those users that need and use the service everyday," said Daniel Guild Village Administrator.
He said after speaking with those people, they'll hopefully find common ground and come to a solution that works for everyone. This will be discussed again at their next meeting. They have to make a recommendation to the village board by August 26.
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