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City bus ridership increases among UW-Eau Claire students, employees

RELEASED: Feb. 2, 2011

More information:
Also see a Feb. 4 UW-Eau Claire media memo with additional clarification about UW-Eau Claire student support for Eau Claire Transit bus service.

EAU CLAIRE — Eau Claire Transit bus ridership by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students, faculty and staff has increased by more than 19 percent over the past five years, according to recent statistics provided by the city of Eau Claire.

The number of UW-Eau Claire riders has risen from 264,678 in 2005-06 to 316,404 in 2009-10 — an increase of 19.5 percent, said Mike Branco, transit manager for the city of Eau Claire.

UW-Eau Claire students and employees may ride Eau Claire Transit buses free of charge with a university ID. A portion of student segregated fees supports the bus service.

Part of the reason for the increased ridership in recent years has been an additional Route 9 bus offering 10-minute service between the Water Street area and campus, said Kimberly O'Kelly, UW-Eau Claire Parking and Transportation Services coordinator. The additional bus service, first offered in 2009 from the end of January to the middle of March, has since been expanded to run from Nov. 1 through mid-March each year.

"The additional service allows us to accommodate the increased demand during the cold weather months," O'Kelly said.

Upcoming campus construction projects and increased parking permit prices also could be factors in more bus ridership by students and employees, O'Kelly said.

"I believe those factors made people rethink how they typically commute to campus," O'Kelly said. "We saw a decrease in the number of permits sold this year, and more people riding the bus. They are looking for way to save time and money, and riding the bus allows them to do just that."

O'Kelly added that the increased use of city buses for transportation to and from campus shows a commitment by students and employees to use more environmentally friendly alternatives to traveling by car.

"I think the increased ridership numbers speak for themselves," O'Kelly said. "Students are taking a stance and looking to alternative ways to commute to campus. Whether it's the bus or biking, we've seen an increase in both modes of transportation the past several years. Although our office will always have a parking focus, we are evolving and taking a much broader approach to transportation as a whole."

In expanding its focus, Parking and Transportation Services has made efforts to improve bicycle and mo-ped parking and to plan for the accommodation of alternative transportation modes on campus, O'Kelly said. A car-pool permit also was made available to faculty and staff last fall, and the hope is to eventually make such a permit available to students, she said.

O'Kelly said UW-Eau Claire's Parking and Transportation Services staff are always interested in hearing students' and employees' thoughts about Eau Claire Transit service to campus.

"We serve as the campus liaison with ECT, and I would like to see more feedback regarding the bus service from students and employees to ensure the service is meeting their needs or to find out what might be done to meet those needs," O'Kelly said.

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JP/DW

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