EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- For the first time ever, public transportation riders can ride the bus from Menomonie to Eau Claire and vice versa. Riders say the route is critical and will change the way they travel.
The two transit systems have teamed up so that whether people go to school at UW-Stout and live in Eau Claire or work in Eau Claire and live in Menomonie, they can travel by taking the bus instead of a car or another means.
Transit advocate and board member of the Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance (CVTA) Jeremy Gragert rode the bus during the 12:17 p.m. route from the transfer center in Eau Claire.
“I live without a car so this is kind of is very critical to my existence basically to be able to take the bus or ride my bike places,” said Gragert who was riding the bus to see what the new route would be like and to spend some time in Menomonie.
Gragert said the bus route is more than a means of travel and he thinks economic development will be impacted.
“People will be able to reach more jobs than they could before people will be able to shop in more places, people will be able to access education and healthcare easier,” he said.
Health care accessibility is an issue for Patrick Schiappa of Menomonie. He's had problems getting rides to Sacred Heart Hospital from Menomonie.
“There was one time where I had an appointment here and used the medical van last month. They actually sent the bus to Menomonee Falls,” recalled Schiappa as he was returning from the hospital to Menomonie on the 12:17 p.m. bus as well.
He said a medical van service can be unreliable and he didn’t know when or if the van would show up on time.
“This bus is very critical I think because it’s easier for people to ride to their medical appointment and you don’t have to worry about calling anybody to get a ride,” said Schiappa.
The route is called E12 Express Connect, connecting riders from the transfer center in Eau Claire and from the UW-Stout clock tower in Menomonie to the McDonald’s off the North Crossing.
The buses would also be able to connect with Jefferson Lines and the Greyhound Lines at the McDonald’s connection point, according to Tom Wagener who is a driver supervisor with Eau Claire Transit.
“We have a few stops along the way that we have roped into the run to make it accessible for people,” said Wagener.
The stops include the Westridge Center, Alpine Road, Menards Distribution Center, Park & Ride, Connection at McDonald’s and CVTC West.
“If they have business in Menomonie they can connect it to Dunn County Transit and get to anywhere within the city limits of Menomonie,” said Wagener.
Wagener and Gragert both said people could save money by using the new route as well as the public transit system in general.
“There’s a lot of people that would use this as an alternative to driving because they want to save money or they want to have a better impact on the environment and there's plenty of people who are too young or too old to drive,” said Gragert.
President of CVTA Mark Quam was also on the bus, testing out the route and heading to Menomonie to talk to the Dunn Co. Transportation Department.
“People need options. Not everyone always has a car and there are some people that maybe prefer not to drive and I think it gives people more transportation options,” said Quam.
For now, there are just three routes a day Monday through Friday and two on Saturday (see side panel for E12 Express Connect BUS SCHEDULE).
“We would love to see this expand and workout into something that would grow and what we need is ridership and feedback from people that would really be interested in using public transit between the two communities,” said Wagener.
The fares will be $2.50 one-way or $5 for round-trip. You can also go from Elk Mound to Eau Claire or Eau Claire to Elk Mound for $1.50. In-Town day passes in Eau Claire and Menomonie is $4 and with a connecting route it’s $8.
In hopes of gaining more riders, the route from Menomonie to Eau Claire will be free temporarily.
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