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After accident, busy River Falls taxi service awaits van replacement

Falcon News Service

March 11, 2020

The city of River Falls leases three taxis it owns to a shared-ride transit service. As a result of an accident earlier this winter, that number is down to two while the totaled vehicle is being replaced. No one was injured in the accident.

The crash occurred while a 2000 Kenworth Motor truck was stopped at Main and Vine streets for pedestrians in the crosswalk. The taxi rammed into the bed of the truck, according to the River Falls Police report on the crash. The report indicated that the taxi driver was distracted while talking with someone. The transit service, Running Inc., is waiting a replacement.

“We’ll be receiving another van, actually, that we are scheduled to get,” said Jason Olson, area manager for Running Inc. in River Falls. “Generally, how it works is we’ll assess a new van and request an older van out of commission. It just so happens that in this case, we had one scheduled to be delivered this year, a new van, so we’re just waiting on the new van to arrive in the coming months.”

Running Inc. is a shared-ride transit service based in Viroqua, Wisconsin, that manages the uses of the taxis in the greater River Falls area.

“The city of River Falls receives state and federal grant dollars to help fund a shared-ride taxi program,” said Sarah Karlsson, finance director for the city of River Falls. “This taxi service is open to anyone and covers the area within the city.”

In addition, taxi service is provided at no charge to students with a valid UW-River Falls student ID who need to go to specific locations: Vibrant Health Family Clinics, the Pierce County Reproductive Health Service, Saint Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team Center and the River Falls Food Pantry.

The taxis also provide a Safe Ride Home program for UWRF students who go out on Thursday-Saturday nights from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. when classes are in session during the fall and spring semesters, as well as J-term.

“The Safe Ride Home program began in December 2015 as a partnership project between UWRF and the city’s shared-ride taxi service,” said Karlsson. “The program’s emphasis was getting students home safely during the winter months. However, based on the ridership results, the usage was higher than expected by both students and the general public.”

Running Inc. receives funding from both the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Other taxi services in River Falls, such as Tip-Top Taxi and Limo, receive no state or federal funds.

“The service runs about 186 service hours a week,” said Olson. “What a service hour is how many actual driver hours are in a week. In general, there is anywhere from 100 to 150 rides a day. Sometimes it is much more than that.”

In February, the city taxi service provided 2,533 individual rides within the River Falls community.

Running Inc. expects to receive the new van by summer.