NEWS BLOG (WSAU) In April residents of Weston voted to restore city bus service between their village and downtown Wausau. You remember the arguments. Not everyone has a car, and those people need a way to get to work or go shopping. Weston now has a hospital and other economic growth; shouldn’t that be accessible by public transportation?
Supporters of restoring bus service overlook two stubborn facts. First, bus ridership was very low. And, this low-usage service costs money.
This week Weston village leaders deal with the costs. They’re deciding whether to put a funding question on the ballot this November. If the bus service costs $50,000, are residents willing to see their property taxes go up by that amount to pay for it? The question will likely go to referendum.
I might be surprised, but my guess is the answer will come back ‘no’.
To the people who voted ‘yes’ for the bus, but ‘no’ on paying for it: shame on you. You’re part of the free lunch crowd. Who else’s pet project would you like cut to pay for yours? Shall the village cut street maintenance? Snow removal? Improvements to parks and public areas? Code enforcement? Police and public safety?
In the 1960s, when the railroads were losing a fortune on their passenger trains, they’d go to the Federal Railroad Administration asking for permission to cut service. The process that would follow was comical. The railroad would present its passenger-load data; on some nights only 10 or 15 people would ride. Yet a-hundred townsfolk would turn out at the public hearing. People who’d given up the train for cars or airplanes, or who took only two or three trips a year would suddenly insist that the train keep running, red-ink-be-damned.
One railroad executive summed up the room perfectly, “no one rides the train anymore, but they sure like to hear the whistle blow.”
That’s what’s happening in Weston. And it’s very expensive.