Community discusses public transportation

A meeting about public transportation in Laramie drew a large crowd that discussed issues and work-shopped solutions.

Interfaith-Good Samaritan — a nonprofit that helps those in need — hosted the Laramie Transportation Summit on Thursday. It brought together stakeholders from all over the community. There were advocates for the elderly and disabled, representatives from the University of Wyoming Transit and Parking Services and elected officials from Albany County and the city of Laramie.

Mike Vercauteren, executive director of Interfaith-Good Samaritan said he was glad the turnout was so high. The need for transportation has been rising, he said. So far in 2018, he has asked the Eppson Center for Seniors for 1,722 rides, with a majority for people who were just trying to get to work.

Vercauteren said his first experience with seeing how the Laramie community comes together was a fire at Wade’s Trailer Court. Vercauteren said over $50,000 in goods and money were donated to help the victims of the fire. For Vercauteren, it showed how Laramie comes together for those in need, and he hopes to see the same drive put towards solving the problem of public transportation in Laramie.

Jody Shields, vice president of Align, ran the summit. She had each table brainstorm and discuss the problems that face Laramie in regard to transportation.

One problem that every table brought forward was a disconnect between Laramie’s east and west ends. None of the current fixed route transportation services serve West Laramie.

Executive Director of the Laramie Soup Kitchen Ted Cramer said one issue he sees is people making a decision between warmth and food. During the winter months, without reliable transportation to keep them warm, people are unwilling to leave their homes to get food.

Several facts needed to be brought forward, city of Laramie Planning Manager Derek Teini said. There are limited options for public transportation in Laramie, but he said people have options beyond motor vehicles. He said how the group approaches public transportation should keep that in mind.

Charles Bloom, city of Laramie principal planner, said people need to know there is no cost to ride the University of Wyoming buses. When the university tried to require a student ID, it ended in disaster, he said. A problem Bloom sees is the lack of north to south public transportation routes. Bloom said the north-south corridor is one of the most densely populated areas of Laramie.

Director of Nursing at Edgewood Spring Wind Senior Living Community Jessica Stalder said several people move to Edgewood because of transportation issues. She said they do have a bus, but it runs only a few hours a day, and it is mostly used to get to medical appointments.

Paul Kunkel, assistant director of Transit and Parking at the University of Wyoming, answered questions at the summit. He said the fixed route options, like buses, are being used less. But their micro-transportation options are being used more. Micro-transportation services are usually cars and vans that provide on-demand rides. The micro-transportation options are services such SafeRide and the Laramie Link Dial-A-Ride. Kunkel said all their services are made available to the public because they use federal funding.

Budget cuts at the university, however, have limited what UW transit can provide. Kunkel said his department would like to expand Laramie Link, but the funds are not currently available.

The goal of the summit was not only to identify problems, but to come up with solutions. Several solutions were put forward, and each table was tasked with coming up with a plan to take action.

One solution that received a lot of support was increasing education. Also, providing alternatives like bike or scooter sharing was brought forward. A bus route that would go through West Laramie twice a day was suggested by many tables.

Brian Harrington, who was representing the Laramie Downtown Development Authority, said the creation of a leadership board was the most important task, especially without an increase in revenue. Stakeholders need to be consistent in showing up to the meetings, he said, otherwise holes in their coverage of the issue would form.

Bloom said an important event coming up for the leadership committee to use is the 2020 U.S. Census. He said it would provide important information on where those in need reside. Then leadership could target those areas for improvements.

A steering committee is expected to be formed in the future that will start to put the plans into action. Shields said she was going to create a report with all the recommendations put forward. Around a dozen people volunteered to be part of the steering committee that would start the ball rolling on all the recommendations.

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