Relief funds keep beleaguered bus alive for now

County has ARPA money to spend on service suffering from low ridership; chooses new company to run bus, taxi
Ozaukee Press staff

A committee of Ozaukee County supervisors voted 3-2 last week to change vendors of the Shared Ride Taxi and the Ozaukee Express commuter bus, with some supervisors questioning whether the Express bus should continue to operate.

Members of the Public Works Committee voted 3-2 to grant the contract for both services to Milwaukee-based Go Riteway.

The taxi has been operated by Specialized Transportation Services, which submitted a bid to do so again.

Go Riteway was the only vendor to bid on operating the express bus, which is currently run by the Milwaukee County Transit Service. MCTS, however, has declined to continue to run the service next year.

Both proposals would have increased the taxi’s hourly rates above the expected increase of 9.1% due to inflation, while the cost of operating the freeway bus would drop by $472,860 to $2.48 million under Go Riteway’s proposal due to increased fares and reduced routes.

In either case, however, the county funds needed to support either service would remain unchanged since most of the operational expenses are paid with federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds earmarked for that purpose.

With ridership remaining low, committee members considered shutting down the express bus, noting that even higher gas prices and construction on I-43 have not boosted ridership.

“We have not seen an increase in ridership,” county Transit Supt. Joy Neilson-Loomis said, making the cost of each ride more than $47.

Supervisors considered shutting down the bus and continuing with just the taxi.

But the $4.9 million in ARPA funds available to the county must be spent by 2027 and can only be used for transit operations. They cannot be used on capital expenditures, such as vehicles.

Neilson-Loomis told the committee it would be impossible to spend that much money on the Shared Ride Taxi operations alone by 2027 but it could be used up by freeway flyer operations.

Faced with the use-it-or-lose-it nature of the funds, supervisors agreed to continue to operate the bus for two more years.

“It’s the tail wagging the dog,” Chairman Marty Wolf said, noting that the taxi is heavily used while the bus service has few riders.

Supr. Michelle Godden balked at spending so much public money on something that’s so little used.

“It’s hard to vote yes for something you feel is fundamentally (wrong),” she said.

Supervisors said perhaps Go Riteway can build a ridership base in the next two years.

Beside higher gas prices and highway construction, they noted that a “reverse commute” plan is set to begin in the next two years that would bring workers from Milwaukee to Ozaukee County.

“We’re kicking the can down the road, but it gives us two years to come up with a better plan,” Godden said.

With the decision to continue the bus service, the majority of supervisors voted to grant the contract to Go Riteway rather than split the two services between the two companies.

“It would be easier for our riders to deal with just one company,” Neilson-Loomis said.

Voting to contract with Go Riteway were Godden and supervisors Tom Richart and Justin Strom. Voting no were Supr. Tom Grabow and Wolf.



Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login