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Bus fares may be lowered for some riders in Eau Claire

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    Eau Claire city bus on Feb. 3, 2017. View more photos at LeaderTelegram.com.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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A discussion will be held Monday about options for decreasing the cost to low-income riders using the public transit system, which comes about three months after the Eau Claire City Council voted to increase fares for everyone.

A directive was given to city staff in late November to look into options for helping low-income riders afford bus trips.

Council members Kathy Mitchell and Terry Weld proposed that resolution, which came after the council approved raising fares from $3 to $3.75 for all-day passes.

One-time bus fares increased to $1.75, which is a quarter increase from the previous rate. The elderly and disabled saw a 10-cent increase to 85 cents per ride. Rate increases were effective Jan. 1.

There is no separate fare for low-income riders, and the study to be discussed Monday proposes amendments to that.

One of the options to make transportation cheaper calls for going back to the rates in effect before the most recent change for low-income riders.

Another option would establish a half-price rate for low-income riders. The monthly pass for all riders would go up to $60, but the cost would be halved for low-income riders. That $30 cost would also be applied to the elderly and disabled, who pay $25 a month now.

Options for making up that revenue could include increasing transit fares to $2 per ride, increasing contributions from the general fund, getting more money from UW-Eau Claire and annual fundraising.

The study also will reveal data obtained from a survey given to riders in January, from which staff learned that about half of those surveyed have household incomes from zero to $15,000.

Data showed that about 66 percent of respondents would qualify for a reduced fare, based on federal poverty guidelines. Those riders take about 1,131 trips per week, comprising about 68 percent of all trips.

“It’s unsurprising, but also surprising,” Councilwoman Kate Beaton said of the data. “It’s never something we confidently knew, but we know the transit system is relied upon by our low-income neighbors. That’s something we have to take into consideration moving forward.”

According to the report, preliminary ridership data from January doesn’t seem to show an impact due to the rate increases.

Other news

• A public hearing will be held Monday for alley improvements scheduled for 2018. Fourteen alleys throughout the city were identified by the city’s engineering department as part of the 2018 Alley Improvement Program.

Some alleys are in that program because of petitions signed by neighbors requesting that work be done.

The alleys are in poor condition, according to the engineering report, and will be upgraded with gravel and pavement.

The cheapest alley project is from Lake Street to Seaver Street in the alley east of South Barstow Street, estimated to cost $13,100.

The alley south of Fountain Street, from Ninth Street to Eleventh Street, is expected to cost $125,800, the most expensive of the alley projects for this year. The higher cost is because of the installation of a French drain allowing water to soak into the ground.

• A recommendation to rezone north side property to allow for a dog park within Sundet Park will come up for a public hearing Monday. The park would have a watering area, a leash transition area, an acre space for small dogs and 8.2 acres for larger dogs.

The council will vote on the rezoning measure Tuesday.

• Rezoning property on the east side of Jeffers Road that has garnered protest petitions is also scheduled for a public hearing Monday. The property would be rezoned to allow for the building of single-family and twin homes.

The project would feature 67 lots — 28 of them for single-family homes and 39 lots for twin homes.

Ninety people signed a petition opposing the rezoning, citing reasons such as a loss of property value, an already-saturated twin home neigbhorhood and busier traffic.

Contact: 715-833-9206, elizabeth.dohms@ecpc.com, @EDohms_LT on Twitter

• The Eau Claire City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday and 4 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 203 S. Farwell St.


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