City of Hudson shared ride

The city of Hudson is continuing to navigate the possibility of a shared ride transit program. 

What was thought to be a cost efficient, quick implementation has turned into a bit of a longer process for the city of Hudson. 

About a year ago, staff began working in conjunction with the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission on a shared ride transit service. 

The idea sprouted before COVID-19, but the need was amplified during the pandemic as other rideshare options diminished. 

There were a number of community partners that expressed an interest and need for a low-cost service that assisted residents in transportation to and from work, appointments, the grocery store, etc. 

The goal is to purchase two vans to begin, operating with a five-mile radius outside the city of Hudson. Residents will be able to call and be picked up within an hour, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days per week. 

Each ride will ideally cost less than $5 for the rider, though discounts for elderly, K-12 students and those with disabilities will be applied. 

For the city, the estimated overall cost will be $60,000 to $65,000 a year, after state and federal grant funding. 

“It’s wildly cheap,” City Administrator Aaron Reeves said. “It’s one of the best return on investments for a city that you can find.” 

It’s a service that will directly impact residents. 

Originally, the plan was to service the elderly and disabled populations in Hudson; however, upon further discovery, more funding is available when transportation programs service all residents. Though a study was completed to identify need in the elderly and disabled populations, a study to account for all potential need and use will be concluded as well. 

Though planners thought they knew what was coming, the schedule for funding applications is different than expected. 

Despite the city being ready to jump on implementing a program, funding will not be available until January 2024. In the meantime, the Common Council must decide on an interim solution. 

“State and federal funding processes have changed and now the state requires application for a new service to occur in January for a service to begin the following January,” Reeves wrote in a memorandum to council. “A service funded mostly by state and federal funds will not be able to begin until January of 2024.” 

Before the city is allowed to put in a notice of intent to launch a transit service with state and federal dollars, the common council must decide if they’d like to offer an interim option to residents. 

Temporary options include footing the full $265,000 bill or partnering with neighboring communities, non profits or private companies. 

“We have not found a viable option yet but continue to work very hard to identify one,” Reeves said, though they continue to work toward one. 

Hudson is, in a way, paving its own way on how to implement a program like this. In over a decade, staff and planners have not identified any other city in the state that has started a shared ride transportation. 

“There are a lot of questions still about the process,” Reeves said. 

The neighboring communities of River Falls and New Richmond both have “shared ride taxi” services, but those programs are more than a decade old and well established. 

Though they serve as proof that they are of value to the communities they serve, it also leaves a lot of unanswered questions about how to get a shared ride service up and running. 

On Oct. 3, Common Council approved a motion to move forward with notifying the state of the city’s intention to start a shared ride transit service as soon as possible and to authorize staff to also to continue to look for interim options until all state and federal funds can be secured.

“We still feel it’s important to keep moving forward,” Reeves said. 

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