Transit unions push for more funding

MTU holding phone bank to call lawmakers

La Crosse’s MTU is joining a national effort to push lawmakers to better fund public transportation.

MTU is expecting 1.2 million riders in 2014, a 3% jump from the year before. But while ridership continues to go up every year, public funding isn’t following suit.

Transit unions are trying to let the public know about the problem. They’ve launched a website and have declared May National Transportation Month.

It’s part of a campaign to highlight the importance of public transportation in cities across the country.  Local public transit unions say the shortage in funding is not only causing some problems for business, but users as well. “What usually happens is that there is serious cutbacks in service and increases in fares, and that double hit of losing service and increase in fairs makes it less and less of an option for people when it comes to finding public transportation,” said Dan Kane from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 519.

Kane talks about the importance of funding when he points out that La Crosse’s MTU is battling an aging fleet. While they’ve purchased four new hybrid buses recently, 2/3 of their buses have more than 500,000 miles on them. “The older buses are in to 10, 11, 12 years now, a couple of them 14 years old and 14 years and a half a million miles, you really trust your mechanics to do a good job,” said Kane.

To put the pressure on, MTU setting up a phone bank where residents can call their elected officials. The bank will open all day Tuesday, May 20th at MTU and is open to the public. Union officials say they plan on having one phone bank every month until funding for public transportation increases.

To also help in the effort, MTU has invited local and state officials will go on a ride-along on one of the city buses.