Milton official questions proposed taxi service

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Stacy Vogel
Sunday, November 1, 2009
— Brett Frazier understands the need for transportation options in Milton.

After all, his mother used to drive Marion Allen, Milton’s well-known philanthropist, around town when she could no longer drive herself.

But the city council member doesn’t know if a government-subsidized taxi program is the way to go.

“My feeling is that there probably aren’t many people who would utilize the shared-ride service,” he said.

Frazier has been the only council member so far to vote against moving the proposal forward, though a vote in favor now doesn’t necessarily mean the council will approve the program in the end.

The council Oct. 20 approved sending out a request for proposals to run the program, with Frazier the lone dissenter.

The proposal for a shared-ride taxi program is part of a study of transportation options between Janesville, Milton and Whitewater. The city would contract with a private company to provide taxi service within city limits, and federal, state and local funds would subsidize the fares.

An analysis by AECOM Transportation suggests the city include a daily trip from Milton to the north side of Janesville so riders could access the Janesville Transit System.

Supporters say the program would offer a way for senior citizens and people with disabilities to get around at a relatively low cost to the city.

The study estimates a Milton program would cost about $105,000 in its first year. It estimates the city could receive $30,000 in fare revenue and $60,000 in federal and state money, leaving $15,000 for the city to cover.

The proposal assumes 15,000 one-way trips a year, or 2.9 trips per resident, with an average fare of $2 a trip.

But Edgerton has seen far fewer riders in its shared-ride program, Frazier pointed out. The Edgerton program drew 3,575 riders, or 0.68 riders per capita, in 2008.

Most of the riders are senior citizens, City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said. The program offers fares within the city for $2.50 a ride or $2 for senior citizens and students, and the city contributes about $6,000 a year.

“We would love if people would use it more,” Flanigan said. “We’re surprised that there aren’t as many students as we would expect.”

But other cities of similar size have seen more riders, ranging from 1.65 riders per capita in Lake Mills to 6.94 riders per capita in Waupaca, according to the study.

AECOM didn’t examine why Edgerton had fewer riders than other cities, but several factors could account for it, said David Sampson of AECOM.

“I would surmise that it has to do with the hours of service, types and number of activities available within the community, and possibly alternative services provided through human service agencies,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette.

He said the proposed daily trip from Milton to Janesville could boost Milton’s ridership.

Frazier is concerned that if the program doesn’t draw the assumed 15,000 trips, the city could be on the hook for more money, he said.

Milton might be able to get grants to cover its share in the first year, but Frazier worries it wouldn’t be able to keep funding it in future years, especially with the tight budgets the city has been facing.

“I don’t see how starting an entirely new program is a responsible way to tackle the budget,” he said.

Frazier said he’d like to see a volunteer program that would take senior citizens and people with disabilities where they need to go.

Another alternative is a private taxi service.

ASAP Transport of Loves Park, Ill., recently applied for licenses to offer taxi service in Janesville and Milton, said Terry Nolan, Janesville Metropolitan Planning Organization coordinator. The company already offers service in the Rockford and Beloit areas.

Milton will hold a public hearing on ASAP’s application Tuesday. Milton Administrator Todd Schmidt said he gets the impression ASAP would “like to get their foot in the door” to win the contract if the city approves the shared-ride program.

But a private service might prove expensive for residents, Nolan said.

“That private operator is obviously going to charge more than a few dollars,” she said.

Last updated: 12:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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