Beepers, strobe lights considered for buses

Beepers, strobe lights considered for buses

CHAMPAIGN – The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District is considering putting beepers or strobe lights on buses in an effort to increase safety.

The C-U MTD board discussed adding the devices in the wake of a recent fatality involving an MTD bus on campus.

District Managing Director Bill Volk said MTD leaders have held three meetings to discuss ways to promote safety and to protect pedestrians.

One option would involve installing caution beepers on all the buses. Volk said the buses would warn pedestrians of the presence of buses, especially when they are about to make turns.

Volk said he didn't yet have an estimate on how much the beepers would cost.

MTD board member Willard Broom said he was concerned the beepers wouldn't be heard by people wearing headphones or using iPods as they walk down the street.

"I would suggest the beeper system cannot defeat the cellphones or iPods," Broom said.

Another option would include installing strobe lights on MTD buses to alert pedestrians that buses are present and about to make turns.

Volk said the lights could be installed on all the MTD buses for $50,000.

But MTD board member Paul Lucas expressed concern the strobe lights might affect people with epilepsy.

"But I don't think we should take anything off the table until we try it out," Lucas said.

Other safety proposals being considered include consolidating some of the bus stops, moving some bus stops away from corners to the middle portions of blocks, reducing speed limits in certain areas frequented by buses and increasing programs to teach the public about safety.

Volk said reducing the number of MTD buses would not address the safety problem.

"The volume of buses on campus is not an issue," Volk said. "We have a very fine safety record."

Volk also discussed a proposal made by the Rantoul Village Board on Monday night to consider bringing mass transit service to that community.

Volk said he hasn't yet met with Rantoul Mayor Neal Williams to discuss the proposal, but he said there are federal grants for rural mass transit systems that could pay up to 55 percent of the proposed system. In addition, Volk said Illinois Department of Transportation grants may also be available.

"We're looking forward to discussing what they have in mind," Volk said. "Anything we can do to reduce the number of automobiles coming into the metropolitan area would be a positive."

According to Volk, Rantoul wouldn't necessarily have to annex to the MTD district to receive service. Annexation isn't possible at this time because Rantoul isn't contiguous to the MTD district.

"The village could contract with us to provide service," Volk said.

MTD board Chairman George Friedman said he would be willing to entertain providing mass transit service to Rantoul.

"I'm certainly receptive to the proposal if we can make the service revenue neutral," Friedman said.

Meanwhile, Friedman said the district has received an intergovernmental agreement being proposed by Savoy, but he said the board won't take any action for or against it until board members have had time to study it.

Under the proposal, the MTD would agree not to annex any more territory in Savoy without either the consent of the Savoy Village Board or a petition by village residents.

In exchange, the village board would agree not to vote on an ordinance creating its own mass transit district. The village had proposed starting a district as a defensive measure to keep out the MTD.

One sticking point is the length of the agreement.

"We've proposed two years and Savoy has proposed forever," Volk said. "Hopefully we can reach a compromise on this."

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