Winneshiek County factors heavily in a pilot project that would eventually result in workers from throughout Northeast Iowa being able to hop on a bus taking them to a wide range of work sites.

The pilot project will result in bus routes connecting workers in Calmar, Decorah, Ridgeway and Cresco to their places of employment. The pilot project is the result of work by the Northeast Iowa Mobility Team comprised of representatives from the Northeast Iowa Community Action Commission, Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission and others concerned about the lack of affordable public transportation in the area.

Once the pilot service has been established, additional towns and buses will be added over the next few years, with a goal of having regular bus service connecting all towns in Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties.

Expecations, benefits

Expectations of the pilot project include:

• Running several round trips per day connecting each of the towns on the route

• Establishing regular pick-up points

• Determining the best times to schedule the pick ups

Benefits to riders will be stressed in the pilot project. These include easy budgeting for get-to-work transportation; having a backup plan to get to work in case of car trouble; improving quality of life by relaxing during commute times; and realizing long-term benefits by decreasing wear and tear on personal vehicles.

Benefits to employers will also be assessed in the pilot project. These include a decrease in absenteeism because of more reliable transportation; access to employees living farther away from any given work site; and saving money on payroll taxes by deducting an employee's public transit cost from gross salary amounts. Employers can also choose to pay for their workers' public transit commutes and then deduct their costs as a direct employee benefit.

Help sought

The Northeast Iowa Mobility Team is seeking help from county employers with the following:

• Giving input on route times and bus-stop locations

• Promoting the service to their employees

• Help in distributing bus passes to employees

• Sponsoring the bus service

• Sponsoring rider perks such as wireless Internet

• Contributing to a Guaranteed Ride Home Fund

For more information about the public bus service pilot project, contact WCDI Director Randy Uhl at 382-6061 or