Starting 30 minutes earlier on week days and suggesting a flat $5 fare for rides beginning after 10 p.m. are among the changes being recommended next year for Waupaca Taxi.
“This is a very successful program. It has tremendous support by the users of the system. It just keeps growing and growing,” Dave Lowe, of Brown Cab, said during the Aug. 5 meeting of the Waupaca Common Council.
Lowe attended the meeting to present an update about the local taxi service that is managed by Brown Cab Service, Inc., of Fort Atkinson.
He said the service is on pace to make 65,500 trips this year.
During the first six months of 2014, it made 32,250 trips.
That compares to 61,377 trips in 2013, 58,651 in 2012, 51,312 in 2011, 48,405 in 2010 and 48,296 in 2009.
Its current fleet of eight vehicles includes three cars, one van, one modified accessible high top van and three minibuses.
The city applied for and received a capital grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to purchase two vehicles for its taxi fleet.
The grant allows the city two years to purchase the vehicles, and Brown Cab recommends purchasing one of the vehicles this year and one early next year.
This year, the city budgeted $13,000 in the local share for the taxi service.
Approximately $7,000 of that amount is expected to be needed for operations, leaving about $6,000 for the required capital match.
The local match for the handicap accessible mini van the city wants to buy this year is about $5,500.
Waupaca Taxi’s goal is to receive enough revenue from fares to allow all of the local share in funding to be used toward the capital grants match.
The funding plan to purchase the $17,500 mini van includes using $6,000 of the $13,000 the city levied for the service this year, $7,500 from the sale of two high mileage vehicles in the fleet and a $4,000 donation from the Waupaca County Health and Human Services Transporation Committee.
In 2015, the city’s match toward a handicap accessible medium bus is expected to be about $10,500.
Brown Cab is recommending several changes in 2015 to provide the city with the necessary income to buy it.
Lowe outlined the proposed recommendations during last week’s council meeting.
The recommendations include:
• Operating Waupaca Taxi on Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day in 2015. Currently, the service closes on those three holidays. Next year, July 4 will be on a Saturday. “We think closing it on a Saturday is not a good idea,” Lowe said of that holiday. The suggestion is that Waupaca Taxi operate from 7:30 a.m. until bar closing on that day. An 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. schedule is being suggested for Memorial Day and Labor Day.
• Beginning weekday operations at 6 a.m. rather than 6:30 a.m. He said there is a demand for early medical trips, which is why that change is being recommended.
• Suggesting a flat $5 fare for rides that begin after 10 p.m. Currently, the regular fare is $3.25 and $2 for seniors and those who are disabled. After 10 p.m., a $1 surcharge is added, making it $4.25 and $3 for seniors amd the disabled. Brown Cab is suggested a $5 fare for all rides starting after 10 p.m.
• Eliminating the current $1 discount for extra passengers. Currently, if two people are riding together, one pays the regular fare and one gets the $1 discount off the fare, Lowe said.
He said Waupaca Taxi provides about 6,000 of those discounts annually and is suggesting that the city do away with that discount.
“This is a public transportation system,” he said. “You don’t get such a discount if you ride together on Madison Metro.”
Ald. Paul Mayou said, “These are good changes. I support them.”
The rest of the Common Council agreed.
The recommended changes have to be incorporated into the city’s 2015 grant application, which is due on Oct. 15.
In addition, the proposed changes would require a public hearing.
Lowe also told the council that by 2018, Brown Cab wants all of Waupaca Taxi’s vehicles to be handicap accessible.
The taxi service is also in discussion with a potential advertiser about placing advertising on the cabs, which would also produce additional revenue for the program.
“We’re just asking for direction now,” he said.