Bus Report Calls for Chippewa Falls Route

Tom Giffey

What’s got 44 headlights and more than a million passengers? The answer can be found at a bus stop near you: Eau Claire’s public transit system. Eau Claire Transit recently commissioned a study to assess the quality of that system and determine how it can be improved. (Hint: They’re not stopping at free Wi-Fi, which was added to buses last year.) The report prepared by a pair of outside consultants was recently released in draft form, and it’s loaded with suggestions about how public transportation in Eau Clare can be beefed up.

Among the primary ways to improve the city’s transit system is to expand it beyond the city, the report suggests. The study recommends increasing the bus connection between Eau Claire and Menomonie to at least six trips per day. (Currently, a bus from Menomonie comes to the downtown Eau Claire bus transfer center three times daily.) These routes also need more stops, particularly ones that will be convenient to the UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire campuses, the report recommends. The report also calls for increased service to Altoona (at present, only one route goes there every hour) and the addition of Carson Park to the bus system. Many of those surveyed and interviewed for the study also talked about the need for bus service to Chippewa Falls and Lake Hallie.

Other recommendations were less dramatic. Many involve tweaking current routes by reconfiguring or merging them (combining Routes 3 and 4 on the north side is one example of the latter). But while such cost-neutral route changes can be made relatively easily, major expansions (such as the Chippewa Falls route) will require a bigger investment in public transportation. That, in turn, would require a push from transit users and local elected officials, says Eau Claire Transit manager Mike Branco. “It’s really the public’s opportunity to let public officials know that transit is important to them,” he says.