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La Crosse looks to bus system to help fix parking issues

By Jenna Troum, jtroum@wkbt.com
Published On: Mar 21 2013 06:14:14 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2013 06:39:06 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

City leaders in La Crosse are looking into whether beefing up the bus system could be an answer to the city's parking issues.

The Municipal Parking Utility Board is initiating brainstorming sessions with the Municipal Transit Utility Board to find solutions.

Driving gets you from point A to point B. But once you get there, you have to find a place to park.

Right now, drivers can mostly do that for free in La Crosse -- something City Council president and Parking Utility Board chairwoman Audrey Kader said has become a real problem.

"People have been spoiled here with a lot of free parking. And yet it's very expensive to provide parking spaces. Even parking spaces on the street cost money to support and maintain, but people just take it so totally for granted," said Kader.

Free parking creates a lot of demand, which means more wear and tear, which means more maintenance, which means more money.

But what if more people took the bus to point B instead of driving?

That's why the Municipal Parking Utility Board is reaching out to the MTU Board to strategize about how to increase bus ridership.

Despite shrinking federal, state and local dollars, bus ridership has been steadily increasing in recent years.

"Last year, we had over 1.2 million rides," said Keith Carlson, La Crosse transit manager.

Carlson said if the city wants to expand the MTU's nine routes, or offer more run times, it's going to take a lot more dollars.

“Anytime you add service, you're going to make it more convenient for people to ride and encourage more people to ride. But, again, that comes at a cost. If we're going to increase service, where is that funding going to come from? We haven't identified that," said Carlson.

He said once that big question gets answered, it'll be easier for the city to decide which route will take them in the right direction.

Public transit is just one piece of the parking puzzle.

Plans are already in the works to start having paid parking in city ramps by the end of the year.

The Parking Board was supposed to meet with the MTU Board Wednesday night to start strategizing, but not enough board members showed up.

The first meeting has been pushed to next month.

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