To better reflect Eau Claire's public bus ridership, the city is considering expanding its Transit Commission with new seats for a UW-Eau Claire student and an Altoona resident.
The City Council will hold a hearing Monday and vote Tuesday on changes to Eau Claire laws on the Transit Commission's membership and duties.
Councilwoman Kathleen Mitchell led a special committee that met in spring and summer to debate changes to transit governance that were suggested by the Transit Commission and Mike Branco, the city's transit manager.
"They thought it was important for those constituencies to be represented," Mitchell said.
University students accounted for 323,000 riders last year out of the 1.04 million who hopped onto city buses.
"We have a third of our riders (who) are students who don't have a very strong voice," said Councilman Andrew Werthmann, who serves on the Transit Commission and supports adding a UW-Eau Claire member.
The university paid $245,100 last year in a contract with Eau Claire Transit to provide bus service for students, Branco said. University students ride the bus for free by showing a student ID.
While the current seven-member Transit Commission can include UW-Eau Claire students as members, that traditionally has not happened.
"This way it guarantees a spot for a student," Mitchell said.
And for the first time, the commission will include an Altoona resident.
Altoona contributed $47,336 toward Eau Claire Transit in 2012, Branco said. Altoona is served by one bus route and collaborates with Eau Claire for paratransit service.
While most city committees, boards and commissions require members to live in Eau Claire, a few do not. A Revolving Loan Fund Board and the City-County Board of Health both can have members that live outside the city limits.
In early spring the special committee discussed the possibility for a nonvoting seat on the Transit Commission for a driver, Mitchell said.
"We came to the conclusion that it was not appropriate for an ex officio seat for the transit union on the commission," she said.
Drivers frequently show up to meetings to offer information to the commission anyway, Werthmann added.
Along with changes to Transit Commission membership, the council will vote on a revised list of duties for the group.
While state law allows transit commissions in Wisconsin to bargain with drivers' unions, most cities, including Eau Claire, leave that duty to their city councils. Tuesday's proposed changes to city law would confirm that.
"This commission was not interested in taking on those expanded powers," Mitchell said.
If approved during Tuesday afternoon's meeting, the changes to the Transit Commission would take effect in two months.
Also on the City Council's agenda this week
-- Accepting a Department of Natural Resources grant for buying land to build a new recreational trail segment on Eau Claire's west side and maintenance to sections of trail more than 20 years old. Those projects have a total cost of $108,250 -- the DNR grant would pay half and the city would fund the rest.
-- A contract to rebuild the south entrance to City Hall will be approved. Rhom Construction of Eau Claire had the low bid at $111,100. A motorist with a history of impaired driving had drove her car into the entrance in April, and it has been sealed since then. The contract requires work to be done by the end of the year.
-- Plans and a related zoning law change for a proposed mixed-use project on the city's south side will be discussed Monday at a public hearing and voted on Tuesday by the council.
-- Two council members will be appointed to the newly formed Confluence Council Task Force.
-- A code of conduct for city committees is proposed.
-- Creating a committee to study state funds formerly known as shared revenue, which has been a declining source of revenue for county and municipal governments
-- City economic development efforts will be reviewed on Monday night.