History of public transportation in the City of Fond du Lac dates back to the 1880’s with the advent of mule-drawn carriages, mule-drawn streetcars, and electric streetcars traveling on steel tracks, 1930’s hard-tired buses, to the current modern buses. The original mule-drawn streetcars operated out of a station located in what was then rural Fond du Lac and is now Fond du Lac Avenue and Fourth Street. In the 1920’s, the Neenah-Fond du Lac trolley line connected public transit to the Fox Valley and this local public transportation operated from the historic site of the new Wisconsin Power and Light facility located at Rees and Main Street in the City of Fond du Lac. Early profitability was due in part to the high railroad repair facility employment.
The provision of transit service in Fond du Lac as we know it today dates back to 1944 when the Fond du Lac City Bus Lines was founded. Between the years 1944 and 1958, a number of firms provided transit service for the Fond du Lac area. In 1958, Howard Schnamayer, who was also President of Sheboygan Bus Lines, formed the Fond du Lac Bus Company. This company continued to supply bus service until factors of rising costs and stagnant ridership forced them to halt bus operations in December 1967.
The City was without transit service until August 1968 when, with the permission of the City Council, the Fondy Area Bus Cooperative was formed to provide public transit services. The feeling at this time was that a cooperative system assisted by private citizens and businesses could be supported in lieu of a publicly financed system. In 1970, the bus cooperative requested a City subsidy to cover operating losses.
In 1972, a Bus Study Committee was formed to study the future operations of transit service. The subsidy and public ownership question was placed as a referendum question on the November 7, 1972 ballot. The response to both issues was affirmative.
In view of the strong public support demonstrated by the referendum vote and based upon the recommendations of a consultant, the City Council voted to purchase the Fondy Area Bus Cooperative on December 20, 1972. On January 15, 1973, the Fond du Lac Area Transit System began operations of urban buses.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation transit-operating support was requested and obtained in 1975 and the Federal government added their operating and capital support in 1979.
The City purchased new replacement buses in 1973, 1977, 1992, 1999 and 2011. The buses were financed with 80% federal and 20% local capital dollars. The new buses can accommodate 24 seated ambulatory passengers when making available 2 non-ambulatory wheelchair spaces. Also, the City owns (but operates under contract) five ADA Paratransit vans. This ADA Paratransit service is mandated under current federal law.
The transit system has carried over 10,000,000 passenger’s trips since 1973. The best ridership year was 1981 with over 456,000 public transit trips. It presently operates five weekday bus routes and one school tripper route with complimentary Paratransit services and taxi service where buses do not operate.
Fond du Lac Area Transit was classified to be part of an Urbanized (over 50,000 population) in 2003. Fond du Lac is the smallest urbanized city in the United States that operates a fixed route public transit system.