- Changes could come to public transportation in a few Northwoods counties.
Last week, the Oneida and Forest County boards approved supporting the creation of the Northwoods Transit Commission. The commission would improve and offer more transportation options for people in Oneida and Forest Counties.
"Right now, there are a lot of different, disconnected transportation services that are provided; be it by city, county, or by private entities. The transit commission would help put this all together," said Dianne Jacobson, director of Oneida County's Department on Aging.
Right now, the city of Rhinelander has a cab service, and the Department on Aging has its own bus. This commission would seek to unite services like these as one entity. That way people could call one number, ask for a ride, and be put through to the appropriate, and closest, transportation option. This plan does not look to alter the rates that private transportation companies currently charge.
"Ideally, even 'for profit' businesses would be part of a contract potentially to offer some rides in that community where they're currently operating," Jacobson said. "This adds no additional funding from the county. It really allows our counties to take advantage of a program that's already there, that helps fund transit commissions so that we can provide more transportation options."
Vilas County is looking to join in the project with Forest and Oneida Counties in September. In October, the three counties will apply for state and federal funding. Additional state funding will be used to help pay for a transit manager who will coordinate transportation services.
Officials hope to have the commission operating toward the end of next year.