The City of Whitewater Common Council voted to approve an increase in riding fares for a shared ride taxi program hosted by the city.
The biggest hikes come to agency fares, which are fares paid for by social-service agencies in the area, which will increase from $6.50 to $9.50. There is also a 25 cent increase to the per-mile charge, going from $2 to $2.25.
“We are looking to increase those [agency and per-mile fares] to what they are in other neighborhoods,” said Karl Schulte, general manager for Brown Cab, which fulfills the taxi services in the city.
The program is largely funded through Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) operating grants. Any costs leftover are paid for by the city through fare fees.
The program is currently experiencing a decline in ridership, a decline that creates a projected shortfall in 2019/20 of approximately $32,000, which the city is responsible for.
Alderman Lynn Binnie, who voted in favor of the fare increases, expressed concern about price increases making Whitewater one of the more expensive of similar programs in the area.
“I look to other municipalities, and this type of increase would put us pretty much at the top,” said Binnie. “This really is one of the only options we have for those who don’t have a car or their care is maybe not functional. This is the only they have to get to work.”
While action was taken on the item, the council also held a public hearing where citizens could comment on the issue. One resident who spoke in front of the council expressed a possible reason she believed could be contributing to a decline in ridership.
“I have met a few disabled people in town in wheelchairs. They said they could not get service right around dinnertime,” said Whitewater resident Brienne Brown. “Two of those people moved to Fort Atkinson because they could not get rides.”
Schulte followed by expressing that all vehicles in the program are handicap equipped and should be able to service anyone at anytime, but there could be “peak use” times where the program is experiencing a larger number of riders at one time and could have longer wait times.
The item was approved 6-0.