The Manitowish Waters Town Board on Feb. 11 granted a $2,500 funding request from Northwoods Transit Connections (NTC), operated by the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission (OVTC).
The town board had initially been approached in late 2019 by NTC director Roger Youngren, who explained what the intent was and also asked for a $2,500 contribution from the town toward NTC operations.
He explained at the time, as he did later with the Boulder Junction Town Board, a new route — from Boulder Junction to Manitowish Waters and then to the Woodruff/Minocqua area — would begin Jan. 1 whether or not each town ultimately decided to contribute.
Youngren attended the Feb. 11 meeting to answer questions about that new route approved by the OVTC in November.
He also provided some background, telling the board there were routes introduced by the NTC in 2019 “connecting some rural cities with some larger communities.”
One of those routes introduced then he said “didn’t work out so well.”
“It was a route between Eagle River, Conover, Phelps, Land O’ Lakes and back to Eagle River,” Youngren said. “The ridership was poor and we were asked in late 2019 to look at this area.”
He said the Vilas County Aging and Disability Resource Center made the OVTC aware there was interest in establishing a route.
“Connecting this area with Woodruff,” Youngren said. “Both chambers in Boulder (Junction) and Manitowish Waters have been very supportive and very good about getting the word out to the community in their newsletters.”
He said it’s still a little early to tell what the ridership’s going to be, although later when he was asked by town chairman John Hanson how many people have taken the bus from Manitowish Waters, he said that number was zero.
“We’ve got to give this thing six or eight months to get it developed and get the word out,” Youngren said.
The route, which runs every Monday and every other Friday, begins in Boulder Junction, then to Manitowish Waters and then to the Walgreens in Woodruff.
Youngren explained once passengers got to Woodruff, another of NTC’s “on call” buses takes them to other locations, such as Wal-Mart and others in the Woodruff/Arbor Vitae/Minocqua area and then bring the passengers back to Walgreens to catch the route bus back to the Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction areas.
He said the route bus can deviate up to 3/4 of a mile and can take passengers to locations within that radius.
“It can easily go to Howard Young, for example,” he said. “Without any extra charge.”
Youngren said the cost to ride the bus for those 60 years of age or older or disabled is $3.25 one way.
“For the general public, it would be $5 one way,” he said.
Taking an “on call” bus from Walgreens, Youngren said, is an additional $1.25 for 60 and over and disabled people and an additional $2.50 for the general public.
“I just wonder why we haven’t had any response from anyone in our community yet so far,” Hanson said. “Hard to tell.”
“Well, any suggestions you have about speaking at other functions or what have you,” Youngren said, adding he had brochures that could be left at the town hall, chamber office and the Koller Library.
Hanson suggested leaving some at the grocery store in town.
Youngren said last year, the funding request was $1,500 and so far, the town of St. Germain has gone along with the $2,500 request.
Hanson asked if the Boulder Junction Town Board had approved the $2,500 request and Youngren told him they haven’t yet, but his understanding is it will be on the March meeting agenda.
Town supervisor Bob Becker said he felt the $2,500 wasn’t bad for a year.
“I’m thinking that we try it out for a year and see eventually, people get the message that they don’t need to drive ... you can’t drive to Woodruff for that price,” he said.
As for getting the word out about the new route, Youngren said there was a large advertisement taken out in the Vilas News Review in January.
“If you’re gonna do that here, you’re probably gonna have to do it with The Lakeland Times
,” Hanson said. “It gets a lot better coverage than the News Review does in this area.”
Referring to what was said earlier about giving it year, Hanson said it needed to be tried for “a period of time.”
“You can’t make a judgement in one month,” he said. Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected].