Wisconsin transit affected by changes to the state's transportation budget

By: Olga Michail Email
By: Olga Michail Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Local transit systems keep feeling the squeeze with Governor Walker's new budget.

Last biennial budget cut 10 percent out of the state transit budget. The new budget will not make any more cuts to it, but will be moving transit from the transportation fund where it used to be, to the general state fund.

Transit managers say if transit is moved to the general budget it will compete with education, healthcare, employment and other initiatives.

“We don't want to have to fight for that money when all those other issues are important as well,” said Eau Claire Transit Manager, Michael Branco.

Branco says his department didn't feel the financial squeeze as much last year, because the city helped out when funding was cut at the state level.

"Other municipalities like Wausau for instant, they actually cut certain routs because their local government didn't make up for that short fall,” said Branco.

Branco says less money from the state could lead to cutting routes in Eau Claire, and possibly an increase in fares.

Branco, along with bus riders, would like to see fares stay where they are.

“I don't want no changes because it's going to hurt me a lot and it's going to hurt her a lot (referring to daughter). Because if they cut some of the routs it might be the rout we need to get to,” said “Anthony” of Eau Claire who was waiting for the bus at Eau Claire Transfer Center with his 3-year-old daughter.

“I pay 45 dollar a months to get a bus pass unlimited, which to me is essential, as I take the bus everywhere. It's important for everyone who rides the bus that the fares stays where it is, roughly,” said frequent bus rider Joshua Gunter of Eau Claire.

“Transit systems across the state aren't looking for more of a handout, just trying to get us back to where we were,” added Branco.

The Wisconsin Urban and Rural Transit Association is trying to talk the governor about the issue and work out some sort of a solution.

“Governor Walker’s transportation budget includes a total state investment of $6.4 billion. The governor recognizes that to grow the economy we need a long-term, safe, and efficient plan. His focus on transportation will work toward repairing the past raids of the transportation fund. Due to this significant state investment, there are no scheduled delays of construction projects, no fuel tax, and no fee increases,” said governor’s Press Secretary Tom Evenson.


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