LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Riders on a south side bus route Tuesday morning saw some familiar faces on board.
They included two current mayors, a former mayor, a state senator and a state representative who are calling for congress to better fund public transportation.
The effort comes as President Barack Obama said the Highway Trust Fund, which funds public transportation, is likely to run dry by the end of summer. It's financed by gasoline-tax revenue. But with cars becoming more efficient and more people using public transportation, funding doesn't follow suit.
"The highway trust fund is about to run out of money and it's the highway trust fund that funds public transportation and highway projects and so forth,” said Dan Kane, ATU Local 519 legislative coordinator.
Groups nation-wide are calling for congress to create a permanent solution. Especially Tuesday, which has been declared National Transit Call Congress Day.
Without those funds, public transportation gets passed over.
"We're celebrating mass transit and we're riding the bus here in La Crosse and meeting people to find out what they like about mass transit,” said Sen. Jennifer Shilling, (D) 32nd District.
They're calling for Congress to create a permanent solution and asking riders to do the same.
La Crosse MTU buses make about 1.2 million trips each year. This year, ridership is expected to increase 3 percent.
To compensate for a dwindling Highway Trust Fund, MTU has been increasing rider fees.
"Without the public transit, our economy would suffer because those folks would not have the ability to get back and forth to work or school,” said Mayor Tim Kabat.
To put into perspective how often La Crosse buses are use, two-thirds of the fleet have racked up more than 500,000 miles.
The MTU was able to purchase some hybrid buses, but they know they'll eventually need funding for new vessels.
Mayor Kabat said with a slight increase in funding, he's confident La Crosse can increase ridership to two million riders each year.
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