Future of Janesville-to-Whitewater Innovation Express bus route unclear

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Andrea Anderson
Saturday, November 15, 2014

WHITEWATER—The future of the Janesville-Milton-Whitewater Innovation Express is unclear after the Whitewater City Council voted to pull funding for the bus service.

At a Nov. 6 meeting, the Whitewater City Council voted 4-2 to yank funding for the service after discussing whether it should help pay for the service when a fraction of the users are in Whitewater.

Janesville Transit System representatives are trying to figure out how the Whitewater decision will affect services.

“At this point, we certainly understand the questions riders and customers have about the route,” Smith said. “What I can say is we're working on options. It's just too early to say,” said Rebecca Smith, assistant Janesville Transit System director.

Janesville Transit System requested about $15,400 from Whitewater. UW-Whitewater traditionally matches the city's donation and has also decided not to be a sponsor, said Jeff Arnold, UW-Whitewater vice chancellor for administrative affairs.

Whitewater and university officials said the low demand didn't warrant the expense.

“We're just not seeing the ridership numbers we had hoped, and it just doesn't seem to be catching on as fast as I would have liked,” Arnold said.

Whitewater accounted for about 30 percent of 2014 ridership, according to Janesville Transit System data. Generac Power Systems in Whitewater accounts for about 81 percent of the people who boarded in Whitewater.

The estimated cost of operation for the service in 2015 is $439,264.

About $80,000 was to be split between Milton, Whitewater, UW-Whitewater, UW-Whitewater Residence Life Office and Association and Generac.

The Janesville Transit System requested Janesville provide about about $200,000 in equipment, maintenance and administrative services. Approval of the Janesville city budget is pending.

Riders' fares and federal and state aid would make up the rest.

With the Whitewater and university funding pulled, the $80,000 must be split between the remaining sponsors or the services could be decreased, Smith said.

Milton is planning to provide the requested $30,000, Mayor Brett Frazier said, if services remain at the 2014 level. If services dip, the council will need to make a tough decision before it adopts its final 2015 budget, he said.

“We are willing to continue to fund our share of this service for this year--it's in our budget... But if there is a reduction in the number of rides, the number of stops, anything to make this service appreciably different, that would cause us to rethink and re-evaluate our investment,” Frazier said.

Generac was asked to provide about $15,400. The company could not be reached for comment.

The university Residence Life Office and Association budgeted in October for about $3,000 in 2015, but Smith was under the impression that will change because the city and university pulled funding.

The bus service began in April 2012 at the request of Generac to improve access to public transportation for employees from outside Whitewater.

Last year, the Whitewater City Council debated funding the service when Whitewater ridership wasn't where the council expected it to be.

In the end, the council voted in favor of $12,000 for 2014, about $6,000 less than what Janesville Transit System requested.

“The city of Whitewater is appreciative of the work and partnership with Janesville and Milton," Cameron Clapper, Whitewater city manager, said about the council's latest decision.

"The impact is recognized, also, that this most likely will cause an impact in how they fund and operate the bus, and that is regrettable, but at the same time we just could not justify the expense."

Last updated: 3:23 pm Saturday, November 15, 2014

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