Eau Claire “outgrows” transfer center

City seeks federal grant to replace downtown bus center

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Photo by Sam Martinez

The transfer center on Farwell has been used since the 1980’s. The city is currenly asking community members on input for the location of a new facility.

The Eau Claire Transit Department is looking to replace its aging downtown transfer center, which transit manager Tom Wagener says the city has “outgrown.”

The current transfer center was built in the mid-eighties to accommodate eight buses at a time. Wagener said at current peak hours, the center is running 12 buses.

Wagener said a new transfer center would not only accommodate current demand, but a larger transfer center would allow the city to expand services by offering new routes.

“We know that there is untapped demand out there,” Wagener said.

To help find the most suitable location for a new transfer center, the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is conducting a feasibility study to present to city council next January.

Once the city finds a suitable location, the next step is creating a site plan in 2016 and starting construction in 2017.

According to the city’s adopted capital improvement plan, the city has approved $500,000 for the 2016 site plan and $4 million for construction. However, the funding is dependent on a Federal Transit Administration capital assistance grant.

The city is planning on a FTA grant to cover 80 percent of the total costs for the site plan and construction, leaving the city to cover $900,000 of a $4.5 million, two-year project.

Wagner said these grants are competitive, and are decisions that will need to be made if the city does not receive it.

“The difficulty is going to be if we do not get the federal funding,” Wagner said. “The city council will need to decide, do we want to go forward.”

With the confluence project currently underway, Wagener said he thinks a new transfer center would fit in with the surrounding development.

Wagener said UW-Eau Claire students currently make up one-third of total ridership, and the UW and city partnership has been working out well.

Eau Claire junior Meagan Buchanan lives just south of downtown, and rides the bus fairly often.

“I have noticed the buses all hardly fit in the (transfer center),” Buchanan said. “It is crowded but I haven’t missed one yet.”

Buchanan said that with a new transfer center, she would like to see more stops on all sides of downtown.

The city is seeking public opinion on a location and amenities for a new transfer center through an online survey.