SOMERS — For the past month, University of Wisconsin-Parkside third-year student Ashlee Willis has been happy to leave her car at home, in Milwaukee, in favor of the new bus line which drops her off just outside of class.
The new line has been running since early September and is intended to offer university commuters from Racine and Milwaukee an alternative to driving to school each day.
“It’s really convenient,” Willis, 21, said. “I didn’t even know about it. For the first month of school I was driving back and forth, and then my friend told me about it.”
On Tuesday the Racine Interfaith Coalition held a press conference at the University’s Tallent Hall bus stop, hoping to raise more awareness of the new line among students and faculty.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Al Stanek, director of parking and transit for the City of Racine, said Tuesday. “Now we have to do everything we can to let people know this is here.”
Wisconsin Coach Lines, a private company funded by state and federal dollars, is operating the intercity commuter bus service, Stanek said.
The university-funded Belle Urban System route was eliminated in 2006 after it lost Parkside funding amid concerns of student fees and low ridership, according to Journal Times’ archives.
“This is a vital and important stop to us,” Parkside interim director of student life Steve Wallner said Tuesday. “Not only for our local community, but for our faculty and staff and our students, who come from all over the state of Wisconsin. This stop and partnership gives them the ability not to have a car on campus.”
Earlier this year the City of Racine, which has been administering the funds for the commuter service since the ’90s, was told by the state to put the contract out for bid, which included the new Parkside bus line. Wisconsin Coach Lines, the current operator, was the only one to submit a proposal, according to Stanek.
Stanek described the current bus line schedule as “very modest,” arriving at two separate times in the morning and departing at two separate times in the evening.
Also in attendance Tuesday at Parkside was Racine Mayor John Dickert, who stressed the importance of public transportation to economic development.