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Portage Common Council approves increase in taxi fares starting March 1
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Portage Common Council approves increase in taxi fares starting March 1

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Eric Shimpach

Portage Common Council member Eric Shimpach asks about the surcharge added to taxi fares during a meeting Thursday at City Hall.

The Portage Portage Common Council has approved a fare increase for Portage Cab Company beginning March 1.

The council approved the change in rates unanimously Thursday at its meeting at City Hall.

“So, just to be clear, the reason we’re raising the rates is we want to continue to have taxi service in the city,” council member Doug Klapper asked City Administrator Shawn Murphy. “If we don’t do this, we’re not going to be able to afford to provide that service?”

Murphy said sustaining the service depends on increasing the fares in the face of lackluster support from the state.

“We’re one of the few communities in the state that has 24-hour, 365-day service (and) that does come with a cost,” Murphy said. “We have been seeing rather flat operating assistance from the state.”

Every fare will increase by at least 25 cents. For adults, the new fare will be $4.25, up from $4. For students 3 to 18 years old, seniors 55 and older and people with disabilities, the fare will increase to $3.25 from $3. Agency fares will increase from $8 to $9, while a new midnight to 5 a.m. surcharge will start at $1. Out-of-town rides will also go up to $2.25 per mile from $2 per mile.

The current fares have been in place since February 2019.

Council member Eric Shimpach asked about the $1 surcharge, voicing concern as to why the amount wasn’t added into the costs throughout each type of daily fare. He referenced popular ride-hailing companies that charge a higher rate during busy, “peak” hours.

Murphy said the surcharge is meant to provide service for the “after-bar crowd.” It has been a challenge to the taxi company to hire and keep drivers willing to work those hours. Because of the city’s agreement with the state, they “have to have across-the-board fees that apply to any type of passenger,” he said.

The surcharge is meant to cover the higher rate they are allowed to pay drivers during evening and later hours, Murphy said.

The Portage Cab Company is owned by Running Inc. of Viroqua. The company provides shared rides through a mass transportation service offered by the city through federal funding. The Public Transit Assistance Program administered through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation ensures municipalities with populations of 50,000 or less, likely unable to support public mass transit like a bus system throughout the city, can provide public transit.

According to a report filed with the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Portage is one of 48 entities, including counties, cities and tribal lands, throughout the state enrolled in the program as of January 2019.

About $1.3 million in costs associated with the service in Portage are split among state, federal and local support and the revenue gained through the service. Local contributions make up 5%, state contributions are 24% of expenses and federal funds account for 32% of the costs while the biggest contributor at more than $504,000, or 39%, is revenue from fares.

The changes were approved 8-0. Council member Dennis Nachreiner was absent.

The council also:

  • Approved on an 8-0 vote an ordinance changing city code to accommodate election official work schedules and the number of inspectors needed during an election due to the implementation of Badger Books, electronic registration books.
  • Approved 7-0 a resolution to declare intent to exercise special assessment powers per state law for U.S. Highway 51 street and utility improvements. Allan Radant abstained.
  • Approved 8-0 a resolution to declare intent to exercise special assessment powers per state law for the Village Road phase 2 stormwater improvements project.
  • Approved on a unanimous vote a resolution to declare intent to exercise special assessment powers per state law for the 2020 alley reconstruction project involving four municipal alleys.
  • Awarded on a unanimous vote a contract for the Portage Industrial Park expansion project to A-1 Construction for more than $453,000.
  • Approved on a unanimous vote a service agreement with Payment Service Network Inc. of Madison, a company the city uses to facilitate the acceptance of payments that charges fees per transactions.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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