May 05--MENOMONIE -- UW-Stout student Max Broton-Anderson takes the Dunn County Express bus nearly every day from Red Cedar Hall to his classes on the lower part of the college campus.
"It's fast," said the 19-year-old sophomore majoring in engineering technology. "You don't freeze. You don't get wet. You don't get hot. If they're going to run it, we might as well use it."
In January the Dunn County Express began offering a continuous bus circuit around campus and the surrounding area for off-campus students. The busing program is offered by Dunn County Transit, which operates buses in Menomonie and the county.
So far the route has been a big success. Broton-Anderson is among 16,404 riders who have ridden the university bus route since it began. The route averages between 1,500 and 1,800 riders per week.
"The bus is really being used," Dunn County Transit manager Kent Conklin said. "Students are getting on 50 at a time. We didn't know what to expect. It's been a tremendous success."
Because of the number of riders the transit bought two used 45-passenger, 40-foot buses, the first large transit buses to be operated in the city in 40 years, Conklin said.
Students can ride the bus weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Evening and Saturday routes also are available to north Menomonie. UW-Stout students pay $2 per semester via student fees and can ride the shuttle as often as they want.
Riding the bus is convenient for students. The bus makes more than 30 trips each hour from the campus' north side to its main area. The bus also eliminates the need to find parking on campus and drops students close to the buildings where their classes are held..
UW-Eau Claire students ride bus routes operated by Eau Claire Transit, and ridership is strong there as well, transit manager Mike Branco said. The number of riders during the first four months of this year totaled 169,816, he said, up 12.8 percent from one year ago.
Bus service has existed in Menomonie and Dunn County for more than 30 years through Door Stop Bus, operated by Disabled and Elderly Transportation. More than a year ago the Dunn County board established the Dunn County Transit Commission, which allows the county to obtain federal and state transportation funds to operate the program. The move also allows more county resident tax dollars to return to the county, Conklin said. Rides cost $2 within Menomonie.
Conklin said Dunn County Transit is monitoring the route and will alter it as needed to best serve riders. Changes were made shortly after the route began to better coordinate with class schedules, he noted.
Given its initial success, the Stout Student Association approved using student fee money to continue shuttle bus operations next school year.
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