If we're serious about meeting our climate obligations, we need to reduce car use. La Crosse’s new Climate Action Plan states that about ⅓ of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicle use, and calls for doubling the use of mass transit to 3% of commuters by 2030.
In order to do that we need to make mass transit as accessible as possible for as many people as possible. But for anyone whose workday starts or ends when buses aren't running (between 10 PM and 5 AM on weekdays or 6 PM and 8 AM on weekends), taking the bus in La Crosse isn't an option. That includes many workers in food service/hospitality, retail, 2nd and 3rd shift manufacturing, etc- in other words, many jobs which are already at the low end of wages. Anyone who works late or early has to either live near enough to their workplace to be able to walk, or drive.
Furthermore, if someone owns a car because they need to have one for one reason, they're going to be more likely to use it for other reasons- why bother learning the bus system or walking ten minutes when the car is right there in the driveway?
We need to take away as many factors that force car ownership as possible, and one straightforward way to do that is to provide a mass transit option for every trip. Overnight service for the MTU fills a services gap for people who need it the most.
In addition, reducing night driving reduces the most dangerous driving- even though only about 25% of vehicle miles are at night,* half of traffic fatalities are at night.**
It's not necessary to provide the full route menu as in daytime hours. Buses running north-south routes on an hourly basis would be at least something, if they target the business areas where workers are most likely to need to reach (such as downtown, the Highway 16 retail area, and several warehouse and factory areas) and go through the bulk of residential areas. One possible loop map is presented below.
* National Household Travel Survey https://nhts.ornl.gov/
** National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Overview of Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes in 2021 https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813435 page 17