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December 15, 2019

kayla houp/Lakeland Times

Northwoods Transit Connections manager Roger Youngren, left, considers a potential new facility for the NTC alongside Oneida Vilas Transit Commission member Steven Schreier. The facility, in Eagle River, would be available to the NTC Dec. 1 should the organization decide to commit to the facility.
kayla houp/Lakeland Times

Northwoods Transit Connections manager Roger Youngren, left, considers a potential new facility for the NTC alongside Oneida Vilas Transit Commission member Steven Schreier. The facility, in Eagle River, would be available to the NTC Dec. 1 should the organization decide to commit to the facility.
11/19/2019 7:30:00 AM
Oneida Vilas Transit Commission to consider new route for 2020
Talks concerning new facility continue
Kayla Houp
Of The Lakeland Times

The Oneida Vilas Transit Commission last week discussed the two new proposed routes for 2020.

Though the Commission saw an increase in ridership by 468 riders, there continues to be a lack of ridership on one route in particular, the commissioners learned Nov. 13.

The Eagle Eye route, which services Land O' Lakes, Phelps, Conover and Eagle River, saw a total of 20 passengers for the month of October, according to the Northwoods Transit Connections ridership report for October.

"In October, it's 20 rides for the month, and all 20, you can see, are nutrition," transit manager Roger Youngren said. "So that's basically the Phelps people going to the Land O' Lakes Food Pantry."

Commission chair Erv Teichmiller said a grocery store recently opened in Land O' Lakes.

"We have not taken anybody from Land O' Lakes or Conover since the beginning, so it's only the Phelps people that are riding that route," Youngren said.

Youngren added he was still in discussion with Vilas County Aging and Disability Resource Center director Sue Richmond and the Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction chambers of commerce.

"I will say they've been responsive," Youngren said. "I've also been in touch with John Hanson, the town chair in Manitowish Waters. He's trying to drum up some activity there as well, interest level."

Youngren's hope is to get the word out about the potential for a new route in the Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction area.

"What we're proposing is that we change up the Eagle Eye route," Youngren said.

Rather than run the current route, which takes riders from Land O' Lakes to Conover Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Youngren said the proposed changes would instead provide Phelps residents with transportation to the Land O' Lakes Food Pantry on Wednesdays and every other Friday, when the pantry is open.

"And then we run a different route with Eagle Eye from Eagle River to Boulder Junction, Boulder Junction on to Manitowish Waters, and then to Woodruff, every Monday and every other Friday," he added.

The bus would then remain in Woodruff for three hours, allowing riders an opportunity to schedule medical appointments accordingly before returning to the Manitowish Waters area.

"That's the final piece of the puzzle for putting the budget together for 2020," Youngren said. "We've got to nail that down, and the mileage and driver hours."

Commission vice chair Bob Mott suggested adding route discussions and review to a future agenda item to "look at the overall picture."

According to Teichmiller, the Commission did not need to vote on the proposed route changes as the approval would be included in the approval of the budget proposal for the Department of Transportation.

"The reason I say that is, if there are any other changes in the other routes we're doing, that'll be included in that plan as well," Teichmiller explained.



A fare price

The Commission also discussed potentially raising the price of local fares due to fee revenue.

"The fee revenue, we continue to struggle with that month to month," Youngren said.

He continued, saying the Commission did receive $2,700 from Nicolet College for the purchase of 250 passes for students.

Youngren explained that, in lieu of a donation, Nicolet College intended to purchase passes as students needed them.

"Is that the only concern you have with revenue?" Teichmiller asked.

Youngren said it was a "monthly" discussion the Commission had and that they could charge more for local rides.

"We've been charging a dollar all along. My recommendation would be to up that by 25 cents, at least, and keep all of the other fares the same," Youngren said. "We discuss this every month, and every month we kind of land on we don't take any action because we're sort of in the middle of the road as far as fares go, in the state."

Teichmiller said the Commission could take the issue up again at its December meeting, and, should a public hearing be necessary, hold one at the beginning of the December meeting.



New facility

Prior to addressing other items on the agenda last Wednesday, the Commission convened to closed session to deliberate the lease agreement for the proposed new facility in Eagle River.

The Commission began talking about pursuing the Eagle River facility in October.

Though no action was taken, the Commission intends to discuss the matter in future meetings.



Other items

The Commission also:

• Submitted a bus order for the purchase of three new buses from Atlas Bus Sales out of Milwaukee at $61,651 per bus for a total cost of $184,953.

"And the bank is prepared to loan us the money?" Teichmiller asked. "And when do you think deliver may occur?"

Youngren said the buses would be delivered within 90 days of the order being placed.

• Received the bus purchased from the Bay Area Rural Transit at 128,000 miles for $5,914 The bus will be used for on-demand services in the Rhinelander.

"The miles are fairly high for a 2017 bus, but it's in excellent condition," Youngren said.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at kaylah@lakelandtimes.com.





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