Saturday bus service update
At tonight’s Transit Commission meeting, Ron Iwen, transportation director, gave the commission a brief update of the Saturday bus ridership. The graph that he distributed started with Saturday, January 7th, which showed a total of 428 passengers on the four Saturday bus routes. The following three Saturdays were in the 200 range (223 to 282); a possible reason given was the colder weather. On Saturday, February 4th, the ridership took an upturn, to 395, possibly due to the nicer weather. And the next two Saturdays showed a total in the 300 range (317, and 328, respectively). Click here to view this chart: Saturday Service. Iwen stated that this was more than he expected. At the next meeting, he promised to bring more details about the ridership.
Last year, with eleven buses on the road, there was a total of 1,100 to 1,200 riders on a typical Saturday. “These numbers could include half going to a destination, receiving a transfer, and then a return trip home,” he said.
Iwen stated that Route 31, the bus route that services west of Highway 31, had the lowest ridership numbers. The numbers ranged from 14 to 25 on these Saturdays. Iwen said that routes may be tweaked based on these ridership numbers and ridership survey information, which will start being collected in the upcoming months.
Another agenda item included the new streetcar tokens, distributed by the downtown Business Improvement District (BID) and the Kenosha Area Business Alliance (KABA). Iwen hasn’t seen any in the street cars yet; he has gotten calls from streetcar enthusiasts, who are trying to obtain the tokens as collectors’ items.
The third topic of discussion was an update on the Metra Station restaurant. Iwen reported that a request for proposal was sent out, yielding no responses. Only after Matt Olson from the Kenosha News published a half-page article, did Iwen get some activity. Four have contaced Iwen and taken tours of the building, and two proposals have already been dropped off. Iwen expects another two proposals by the end of the month. Interested parties include a non-profit organization from Chicago that sells donuts and coffee and helps the poor overseas with their profits, Jack’s Cozy Cafe, the previous owner of the Bull-n-Bear Restaurant, and the owner of the Daily Dose. He stated that he hopes to see a renter in the building by April.
Jennifer Heim, of Heim’s Downtown Toy Store, asked about a restroom area being opened up, even if a restaurant is not. Iwen stated that there’s a problem with that. He can’t leave the building open, unmanned. “Placing a worker there costs money,” he said. “Plus, there are safety, hygiene, and graffiti issues. There have been problems with transients living in the elevator foyer as well.” Heim stated, “Hopefully, the next tenant will be a long-term tenant.”
Iwen stated that Lou Perrine’s will continue to sell tickets, even if a new tenant goes into the building. “Perrine’s is open 24/7, and they currently sell waste drop-off tickets as well,” said Iwen.
Iwen then gave an update on the new buses. Three new buses have arrived recently. Iwen was able to procure seven more from the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee grant, and another additional bus from another grant. “Therefore, next year at this time, there will be eight new buses on board. There are all sorts of maintenance issues with the older buses. These new buses will have lower floors, ramps for wheelchairs, and be much better on fuel economy. Plus, they come with a two-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. We also do our own maintenance,” Iwen stated.
Chairman Eric Haugaard wanted to know what the oldest bus in service was. The answer given by Iwen was a bus that is 17 to 18 years old. It has been completely written off. “We have a good relationship with Milwaukee. They let us know which buses are good, we buy them for $2,000 each, run them for 100,000 miles, and then sell them for $2,000 each. They have been a nice band-aid for us for years,” he said.
Haugaard asked if the gentleman who had spoken at the last Common Council meeting had contacted Iwen to discuss the prospect of switching over to compressed, natural gas (CNG). Iwen stated that the technology is not quite there yet. He spent some time in North Dakota discussing the CNG alternative, bu there have been problems with the engines. These cost between $30,000 and $40,000. “The heads are getting cooked,” he said. “Once they develop new engines and transfer them to the semi-world, the engines will become more durable, and the cost will come down. There are other alternatives being discussed, too: clean diesel and bio-fuels, like cooking oil.” Iwen felt that, as the technology continues to move forward, that he expects to conduct demonstrations in the next two years.
One last item of discussion was the possible closing of McKinley Middle School, and how the buses would be affected. “Currently,” Iwen stated, “there are two buses in the school service area. We need to make changes. First Student also has two buses, which travel 1.9 miles from the school to the house. Students would receive a free pass.” He felt that they should be fine; there was no need to change the fleet or the service. “Two or three buses are needed. The maximum is that we need one more bus. But, we’re on the edge. Another bus may not be needed. Sixty to sixty-five percent (60 – 65%) of the students are walking students. We are doing what we can to accommodate the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD).”
Iwen then mentioned that the recruitment for an administrative secretary position yielded eight internal applicants.
The next meeting was tentatively scheduled for March 19.