La Crosse MTU expects to roll out two electric buses in fall

Electrict Bus 2
Electric buses charging. (Getty Images)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility and Xcel Energy will break ground soon for electrical charging stations for buses, according to MTU Director Adam Lorentz.
The plug-ins won’t stand idle, with the arrival of two electric buses next fall, Lorentz said during a virtual information meeting that the La Crosse Area Transit Advocates group convened Tuesday night.

New Energy Bus Battery Charging

New electrical bus battery charging. (Getty Images)

Those are quite the accomplishments, Lorentz said, noting that such amenities are more likely in larger cities such as Milwaukee, Madison and Racine.
“For our size of system, that’s unique,” he said. “A lot of eyes are on us,” with midsize cities such as Green Bay and others in Wisconsin watching how successfully the MTU moves toward an all-electric fleet.
Asked whether the MTU would be able to meet the city’s general goal of using all clean, renewable energy by 2050, Lorentz predicted the transit system will beat that target handily.
For example, he said, as the infrastructure for charging vehicles is installed, it will include conduit to expand easily, he said.
Another priority for Lorentz this year is to improve the fare system, he said, acknowledging, “We are very archaic in La Crosse on fares.”
Plans are in the works for a Genfare app with which a patron could buy a 30-day pass, as well as one-day and three-day passes for customers who might want to ride a bus several times without paying a daily fare each time they board, Lorentz said.
“We’re not quite where we need to be” to start that system, as the MTU still is based on a cash and fare system, but streamlined fares are getting closer, he said.
The MTU is focused on improving bus service on the North Side, in particular setting up a turnoff and transit turnaround at Bridgeview Plaza, Lorentz said.
“The Caledonia transfer point is congested, and (a Bridgeview transfer site) would take pressure off,” he said.
Lorentz cited, and Mayor Mitch Reynolds echoed, the need to build a public transit culture in the city instead of making it easy, convenient and cheap for people to use cars with a proliferation of ramps with some free parking.
The effort to create such a culture requires generating service and attitudes in which people grow up riding buses and, as adults, see buses as a time-saving option, Reynolds said.
Building the culture means fostering an atmosphere in which people take buses not because they have to, but because they want to because of cost- and environment-saving aspects, the mayor said.
Reynolds pressed for “a cultural shift in how we see transit and how it interacts with our lives. … It’s a quality of life.”
The national average cost of owning a car is $9,000 a year, he said, adding, “That’s a ridiculous amount of money.”
Reynolds, an avid bicyclist, also extolled the virtues of ensuring more bicycle-friendly routes when planning streets and developments.
“People call it (bicycling) alternate transportation,” Reynolds said. “A lot of us call it primary transportation.”