Bus for farmers market seeing little use

Aging director: 2-3 riders average per weekend
Evan J. Pretzer news@wolfrivermedia.com

A low-cost bus exists to transport people to the Shawano Farmers Market when it is running, but now, Shawano County officials are warning the service may not last if more people don’t use it.
Launched last year and funded through county tax money and part of more than $100,000 in grants from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the county contracts the service through Menominee Regional Public Transit. Although reviews for the rides have been good, user rates are still low, worrying county Director of Aging Heidi Russell.
“We haven’t had more than two to three riders per weekend,” she said. “This has been our grand total, and I am not sure why. The service has been top-notch, it is cheap and I haven’t heard a single complaint about it yet. We’ll try one more year, but it will ultimately come down to my decision.”
Costs to ride are $1 per trip. Pickups begin at 8 a.m. every Saturday and then make their way from The Cottages Memory Care assisted living facility on a route to Oakridge Gardens Nursing Center and several other apartment complexes and care facilities before going back to the market.
Though representatives of some other apartment complexes visited by the bus confirmed their residents know it exists, they aren’t sure how many ride or how to get more people to do so.
“We have posters on the bulletin board at Waterview,” said John Wartman, Waterview Apartments manager. “I can’t really say how many people use the bus or how to do more, it’s all on their own really.”
“I honestly don’t know what happens with it here on the weekend,” said Jill Kamke, Elizabeth Manor occupancy specialist. “I know some of our residents do use the other buses for shopping, but for the farmers market, if someone wants to advertise it more with flyers, I guess we’d put them up.”
Shawano Farmers Market Manager Nathan Falk said his organization would try to promote the bus service more after having already mentioned it in a June press release, though, for Russell, one thing that should really sell it is the healthy options available to riders at Franklin Park.
“The farmers market has a lot of buying options which are less expensive,” Russell said. “What I am hoping is for the bus to be promoted and encourage its use and healthy eating. This is so important and it enables more socialization for some of our older county residents.”