Patrick Schiappa of Menomonie hopped the first Dunn County Transit bus to Eau Claire Monday morning, seeking an easy, fail-safe way to get to his doctor's appointment at Sacred Heart Hospital.
"I think it was great," Schiappa said as he headed back to Menomonie on the midday bus, noting without the transit bus he would have had to rely on a Veterans Administration medical van for transportation. Those buses can be difficult for him to schedule, he said.
"This bus will be there. No worries about no-shows," Schiappa said.
Schiappa, a nontraditional UW-Stout student studying social sciences, was among a half-dozen riders when he returned to Menomonie midday. Monday marked the beginning of a busing service between Menomonie and Eau Claire that provides three trips daily from the UW-Stout clock tower bus stop to the Eau Claire McDonald's with the Greyhound station on the city's northwest side. Transfers then can be made on to the Eau Claire Transit service.
The new bus route will connect the two cities, particularly university students to the UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout campuses, Dunn County Transit manager Kent Conklin said.
"You've got people living in Menomonie who go to school in Eau Claire and people living in Eau Claire who go to school in Menomonie," he said. "This is a commuter route. It is intended for people who work too."
The 21-mile trip from Menomonie to Eau Claire takes about 26 minutes to complete. The bus seats 35 people. The route is paid for by state and federal Department of Transportation money and costs about $50 an hour to operate.
The Menomonie-to-Eau Claire route and back represents a major step for Dunn County Transit officials as the venture expands busing beyond Menomonie, Conklin said.
Schiappa said the bus is not only convenient but economical, costing him just $45 a month.
"That's a bargain," he said.
Schiappa wasn't the only bus rider Monday. Celeste Hein of Eau Claire also rode the bus from Eau Claire to Menomonie.
"I just wanted a change of scenery," she said, noting she plans to ride the bus to Menomonie to visit relatives there. "It's very convenient for me."
Jeremy Gragert, a board member of Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for public transportation, biking and walking, rode the bus on Monday afternoon.
"It's absolutely tremendous," he said of the new route. "It's a great step to allow people to be able to access other communities and more jobs, education and shopping opportunities. Not only is it going to be able to help a lot of people in their daily lives, it's going to be great for the economy."
If interest in the route grows, Conklin said additional times to Eau Claire would be added.
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Copyright 2013 - The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.