Dunn County transit looks to add new routes, electric buses

Dunn County transit looks to add new routes, electric buses

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Menomonie business parks workers could have a new way to get to their jobs by the end of the year.

With goals to expand its footprint in Menomonie, the Dunn County Transit Commission is looking into two new bus routes. These routes would travel through the Menomonie Industrial Park and Stout Technology and Business Park, transit commission manager Dolly Catlin said in her annual report to the Dunn County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Wednesday.

The transit commission is working with the Dunn County Economic Development Corporation following a Commute to Careers grant from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. A survey has been available online and Catlin is working with a consultant to analyze traffic counts and develop routes before beginning the pilot program.

UW-Stout’s career services has supported the new routes, Catlin said, as it could help students get jobs, internships or work study programs at businesses at those locations.

The transit commission is also part of a program that could add two electric buses to its fleet within the next year or two. As part of the Federal Transit Administration’s No or Low Vehicle Emission Vehicle Program, Dunn County Transit was announced as a recipient of funds for two battery run buses. More than $470,000 was awarded which will cover costs for buses, training for staff and infrastructure such as a charging station. The grant will cover 85 percent of the costs for the project, Catlin said.

After successful use of battery-operated buses in Duluth, Minn., any concerns of electric buses not functioning in the winter have been resolved.

Originally planned for 2020, the electric buses will likely not be ready to use until 2021.

The transit commission will also be adding new shelters to bus stops this summer. In June or July, nine shelters will be added at eight different stops along the bus routes, Catlin said. The shelters have been ordered and are currently being assembled.

Ridership has increased for two consecutive years. Catlin reported an almost eight percent increase from 2018 to 2019. In 2019, Dunn County transit had 133,661 passengers, up from 123,975 in 2018. In 2017 119,275 passengers used county transit.

About 10 percent of riders are non-students, Catlin said, and Supervisor Vaughn Hedlund asked if there were any plans to expand service to other parts of the county. The transit commission provides transport service county wide with the help of volunteer drivers who are reimbursed mileage, Catlin said. The transit commission can be reached by phone at (715) 235-7433.

Previous routes established that traveled to Eau Claire and Boyceville didn’t get the ridership to maintain the routes.

“I would love to extend greater than our footprint in Menomonie,” Catlin said, “but right now what we can afford with very little money in this program and me trying to tie together a bunch of pieces that I can, we can afford to try to do it right here and try to get more ridership right here.”

Community services building renamed

The board also approved a resolution to change the name of the Dunn County Community Services Building. Approved was change of the building name to the Dunn County Government Center.

County departments moved to the new location in November of 2019 after the sale of the building at 800 Wilson Avenue in Menomonie was sold to the City of Menomonie.

The next board of supervisors meeting is March 18 in room 54 of the Dunn County Government Center, 3001 U.S. Hwy. 12 E. in Menomonie.


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