Funding lost for public transit

By Vesna Brajkovic

Managing Editor

 

Weekday public transportation will no longer service Whitewater – effective January 1, 2016 – after the loss of funding from a local sponsor.

The Janesville Transit System’s (JTS) Janesville-Milton-Whitewater Innovation Express (JMW) route has been cancelled after Generac Power Systems Inc. pulled their $15,423 sponsorship from the local share to operate the bus service.

Other sponsors for 2015 included the City of Janesville ($15,923); the City of Milton ($30,112); and UW-Whitewater’s University Housing and Residence Hall Association ($3,711), totaling $65,169 in sponsorships.

Due to funding lost in the Whitewater area, JTS does not anticipate providing transportation services to Whitewater in the future. According to a JTS news release, continuing transportation services to Milton in 2016 is an option being explored if the pooled funding from both cities continues, pending approval in the 2016 budget process, which includes an extensive public input process in late October.

“Generac Power Systems has been a supporter since [JMW] inception,” Janesville Director of Transit Rebecca Smith said. “When I learned they were no longer able to sponsor it quickly became apparent to me, from a financial standpoint, that I would not be able to recommend service to Whitewater going forward for 2016.”

Beginning in 2012, the JMW is a regional commuter bus service that runs through Janesville, Milton and Whitewater and even Chicago through connections. Services will continue through December 31, 2015, marking four years of service to the Whitewater area.  The service offers three full trips to Whitewater each weekday, one full trip to Whitewater each Sunday and two full trips to Whitewater on Saturdays during the UW-Whitewater school year.

“Every municipal service has a client base,” Smith said on her recommendation, which ultimately is not the deciding factor.

“Every service a city provides, such as transportation, has people that believe in it and use the service. When you have to make a change you always know you’re affecting a segment of the population. So, making changes is difficult, even if it’s the right financial choice to make, or the prudent choice to make.”

The total cost projection of the bus service in 2015 is $188,333, according to Milton City Administrator Al Hulick in a 2015 contract report directed to Milton Common Council Members.

Along with the sponsorships, the JMW was funded by federal ($58,383) and state ($45,200) operating assistance, totaling $103,583, as well as passenger/fare revenue. Fare revenue was projected to be $19,581 in 2015, according to Hulick.

Whitewater-based Generac shared their decision to discontinue sponsorship for next year with the City of Janesville in June, five months into the contract.

“In 2014, we did some extensive marketing and meeting with various businesses in Whitewater to try to find additional sponsors,” Smith said. “What we found, for a variety of different reasons, was that we just didn’t find any other businesses or organizations who were able to sponsor.”

Because – according to Smith – Whitewater is lacking in sponsorship options, Generac was essentially the backbone of this bus service for more reasons than holding a big stake in the operation, according to Director of University Housing Frank Bartlett.

“I believe in the end the schedule ended up being the greatest challenge for students and staff,” Bartlett said. “The Innovation Express bus schedule was originally set up to get Generac workers to their shifts.  Their shifts weren’t conducive to our normal class schedule as the early bus arrived at 6:10 a.m., the afternoon bus at 2:10 p.m. and finally the evening bus at 10:10 p.m. We ultimately couldn’t find enough funding to shift the schedule to accommodate the [UW-W] work schedule and so individuals made the decision not to use the service”

Generac did not respond to interview requests by press time.

Purchased from JTS, 100 bus passes were previously provided free of charge to students on two separate occasions by the university “with the intention to highlight the service with the hope to get more students to utilize the service,” Bartlett said. All the bus passes were picked up by students in sets of two within a couple days.

Weekend transit services between UW-W and Waukesha/Milwaukee are offered through Wisconsin Coach Lines for $8. There are two eastbound trips on Fridays and two westbound on Sundays. For times visit uww.edu/adminaffairs/parking/transit.

For a printable schedule of JMW service times visit ci.janesville.wi.us. Under the “Programs & Services” tab and “Bus Transit (JTS)” section view the schedule under the “Janesville Milton Whitewater Innovation Express” category.

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