There’s a new option for traveling between La Crosse and Tomah.
The Scenic Mississippi Regional Transit program launched service in Monroe County Monday with the creation of the Green Line, a pilot program that will take residents in Tomah to La Crosse and back twice daily.
Charlie Handy of the La Crosse County Planning Department hopes to keep the service in Tomah after the end of the pilot period and expand the number of routes.
“Eventually we’ll have three routes − morning, evening and noon,” he said. “We have to purchase a few more vehicles yet to do that, but this first route, this pilot project, is something that will run until the first of the year and see how it goes.”
Peter Fletcher of the Regional Planning Commission hopes the program continues after the pilot program finishes.
“The pilot is set up right now for the first three months to sort of see how it goes, to see what kind of reaction we got and the kind of ridership and also to learn things about what the service will be,” he said. “It’s just great to be able to expand this to the I-90 corridor. Currently we’ve been serving kind of south and east of La Crosse, and it’s a great opportunity to pick up more riders and just more interest in SMRT. Today is the first day ... and hopefully it won’t (end).”
The SMRT bus system has run in Crawford, Vernon and La Crosse counties since 2013. It’s a public transportation service designed for commuters, elderly, disabled residents, the public and potential tourism-related travel.
The cost to ride is a $3 for a one-way fare, $25 for a 10-ride punch card and $80 for a monthly pass. The buses have a 26-passenger capacity, are handicapped accessible, have free WiFi, are air conditioned and have bike racks that can carry four bikes.
The new SMRT Bus stop locations in Tomah include the VA Medical Center, industrial park and downtown Tomah.
SMRT Bus stop locations in La Crosse include Shopko (south), University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Western Technical College, Viterbo University, Gundersen Health System, Mayo Clinic Health System and downtown La Crosse.
Victoria Brahm, VA Medical Center director, is pleased the VA is able to be part of the program.
“There are a lot of sponsors that supported this in the La Crosse, Tomah, Sparta area, but one really cool thing about this is it’s one of the federal, state and local initiatives that everyone has worked together to accomplish,” Brahm said. “So we’re really proud to be able to house the bus here, but more than ever we’re just happy for our employees and for the community at large that will be able to expand with this Green Route.”
Brahm believes it will benefit everyone.
“I am so excited about it because there are veterans that want to come here and that already go to our La Crosse clinic on another line, but they’ll be able to come in for $3 with WiFi, and ... this will also benefit employees as well,” she said. “I think it will be great for the city of Tomah because of all the stops it does with Toro and Walmart and all of those areas. So I think it will really help in a rural area like this and it’s really nice, luxury riding ... it will be like taking the train to Chicago.”