MTD board asked to reconsider bus-stop plan

CHAMPAIGN — Larissa Kramer says that Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District officials should rethink a plan to designate only certain places as bus stops.

For the most part, MTD drivers currently will pick up and drop off passengers at any intersection.

But beginning next August, the MTD plans to use only designated bus stops.

"Many of the people with disabilities, if they are physical, they can't walk further to another bus stop," said Kramer of Champaign, who identified herself as a volunteer assistant for several disabled people. "And people with mental disabilities who I work with, it's really confusing for them to even understand where the bus stop is. But it's really easy, when they see the bus coming, to wave at it. I'm just afraid that they might be confused trying to get to other stops that aren't right there."

Kramer came to Wednesday's meeting of the MTD board to ask the agency to reconsider the plan.

MTD Managing Director Bill Volk said the agency already uses designated stops in the University of Illinois campus area.

"On Green Street between Race (Street in Urbana) and Neil (Street in Champaign), we don't stop at every corner. We put bus-stop signs there," he said. "And on the Orange Line between downtown Champaign and downtown Urbana, we've done the same thing."

Generally, Volk said, there are bus stops every two blocks in those areas.

Many other bus systems already operate with designated bus stops. "Most other places stop every two to four blocks," he said.

"We're looking at our ridership data, our on-off data, to look at where we have senior-citizen housing and grocery stores and multifamily housing. There may be situations where we stop at every corner in an area, but there are places where we won't do that in an effort to speed up the trips. If we just keep stopping, then we slow down everyone's trip, and it gets very expensive to do that," he said.

The bus system is not only carrying more people, but it's also carrying more wheelchairs, bicycles and strollers, Volk said.

"We need to look at ways that we can more efficiently meet our schedules and avoid some costs, like putting additional buses on the street and slowing down the service," Volk said. "Most people would like to get to their location more quickly. So by limiting stops, we do that, we save on brake life, it's more fuel-efficient if we keep moving.

"But we need to weigh that with convenience and the special needs of different groups."

He said a system of designated bus stops would go into operation next summer "unless it's just determined that it's not feasible to do it."

In another issue, Volk told board members it would cost an estimated $300,000 a year to provide service on six holidays when it does not now operate. Another MTD user asked the board last month to consider holiday service.

Volk said providing holiday service would be addressed in a strategic plan update the agency hopes to begin later this year.

Also Wednesday, the MTD board delayed acting on awarding a contract for a study of the expansion of the Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign. State officials still haven't finished a review of the plan. The contract probably will be awarded at the next MTD board meeting scheduled for Oct. 31.

Bus ridership in August amounted to 745,337, about 5.4 percent below the August 2011 figure. The decline was attributed to the fact that there were three fewer UI attendance days this year than a year ago. Year-to-date ridership in 2012 is two-tenths of a percent greater than a year ago.

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jdmac44 wrote on September 27, 2012 at 12:09 am

As a rider, I've found that their adherence to their schedule is too erratic to expect people to only wait at designated stops.  At times I've found myself having to start walking to try to get to work on time because I don't know if the bus was too early and I missed it or if it's late and still coming.  If it's still coming, I'll look over my shoulder periodically to see if I can catch it at the next intersection.  Also, on campus they only stop every other block and once I was walking because the bus didn't come when it was supposed to, eventually it caught up to me but the driver wouldn't let me on because I was not at a designated corner, by the way it was raining cats and dogs.  Please MTD, put your customers first.

rsp wrote on September 27, 2012 at 8:09 am

They have a couple apps you can check for the location of the bus or you can call. Not every delay can be helped. 

jdmac44 wrote on September 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Which is exactly why I say that they need to keep stopping at all intersections.  Many people who ride the bus can't afford smartphones.

rsp wrote on September 27, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I can't afford one either. I have a pay-as-you-go cell phone. I use the schedules. I use the apps on an old ipod. I also try to remember that a lot of other people ride the buses too, which can make a difference in when they get to a stop. I don't think they need to stop at all intersections in all areas. I would like to see a plan released for comment prior to it being enacted for riders to propose changes. I think some areas need more stops than others based not just on usage but on who the riders are.

ClearVision wrote on September 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

You can't use "apps" or call for a schedule if you don't own a cell phone or can't afford monthly service fees.

rsp wrote on September 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

$20 will get you a cell phone at 10 cents a minute. Many people are eligible for free cell phones with free minutes each month. Because I rarely use my cell I don't have to put money on more often than every other month, so it costs me about $5 a month, if that. 

ClearVision wrote on October 03, 2012 at 3:10 pm

So now everybody has to pay for a cell phone and cell phone service on top of bus fares? Sheesh. That's even assuming it all works properly all the time... phone reception, data outages, buses 'disappearing' from the system, etc.

JRR wrote on September 27, 2012 at 2:09 am

I'd sure like to see Sunday evening service. Tired of coming back from Chicago on Amtrak's afternoon train and arriving within an hour after the last MTD buses of the day.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on September 27, 2012 at 6:09 am
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... or go to the airport for the early flight.

 

I also don't understand why the late bus goes from downtown Champaign to downtown Urbana. You'd think third shifters at Kraft, Meijer, Solo Cup, etc. would be likelier riders than X*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*where X is the imaginery creature who hangs out in downtown Urbana.

MadGasser wrote on September 27, 2012 at 11:09 am
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I must be the mythical X, then. I prefer downtown Urbana to downtown Champaign. If you're seeing me in downtown Champaign I must be off my rocker.

cbrads334 wrote on September 27, 2012 at 2:09 pm
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Wouldn't it just be more practical to change the schedule times?  Some are so unrealistic it's a joke.  The route from Orchard Downs through campus was just one example. 

Perhaps the MTD supervisors should actually audit the routes, at different times of days, and on different days, to see what the real world is like.  I knew someone who drove for MTD.  That person didn't even have time to use the bathroom; it was that bad. 

Of course, productivity is one thing, but safety is another.  When you have a bus driver who's responsible for lives, safety can be compromised if they're so worried about meeting an artificial schedule that they drive or operate the vehicle unsafely.  Yes, that does happen, MTD can treat their drivers brutally in regards to scheduling, etc.  Needless to say, that seems to be why they have such a high turnover in drivers.

The supervisors themselves should be going out on the routes to see what it's really like.

danrice56 wrote on September 28, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Good idea....NOT! So, they're gonna look at ridership data, and continue stopping at every intersection where they have a high number of people with disabilities, etc, ride the buses, and not do this where they don't.

What about the odd person (no pun intended) who breaks the "rules" and has disabilities, who is trying to board a bus in a "non disability desiginated area"?

 

 

Well, I guess they're just screwed, aren't they?

rsp wrote on September 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Actually, most drivers know most of the people who ride on their routes. That's the kind of thing that happens now, where they stop and pick up someone who they know has trouble getting around in the middle of a block.

There are a few riders who have passes and we all know they have a pass, but they are lucky to get out to the corner to go to the doctor or the store. So they let them ride without having to go back to get their pass and wait for the next bus.

The drivers are actually helpful to people with disabilities. I happen to be disabled. I've seen them go out of their way to make sure someone crossed the street safely after getting off the bus, helped people get on and off. 

It's funny how it's the ones who aren't disabled who want the bus to stop at every corner, and are using the disabled to make the claim. The same people complain about the buses being late. 

randyandjoy1 wrote on October 01, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Amen, RSP! Good stuff. Go get 'em! Remember though, they hate truth so be ready for the attack!

ClearVision wrote on October 02, 2012 at 11:10 am

"It's funny how it's the ones who aren't disabled who want the bus to stop at every corner..."

Nobody has stated they want a bus to stop at every corner. Some of us, myself included, think it's a bad idea to restrict stops to signed locations on every street for every route. Erecting signage alone seems like a daunting, expensive (and cluttering) task. Also, in low-traffic areas (i.e. outside the two downtown areas and off campus) people simply don't disembark or board at anything like every block. It simply seems like overkill and/or addressing a problem that doesn't exist.

Don't get me wrong, I *like* the fact the buses don't (or aren't supposed to; they often do anyway in my experience as a rider) stop every block in busy areas. This proposed extension of the policy to areas that in my opinion don't need it seems ill-considered.

rsp wrote on October 02, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Outside of campus, away from downtown, I know of areas where they stop at a corner and let pasengers off, turn left and stop literally across the street and let people off, and then stop at the next two corners. After they do that last stop they turn left again and people wanted to get off just around the corner but they just put a stop to it and are making them wait to the next corner. If we count houses, the bus is stopping 4 times as it goes by five houses. There is an elderly man who uses the same stop I do. They know him. The whole neighborhood looks out for him. He's family. At least two of those stops could be cut out now and save time and money. 

ClearVision wrote on October 03, 2012 at 3:10 pm

The drivers can already let people off on alternate blocks. Simply announce that as policy, and don't stop every half-block. Simple. But that doesn't have anything to do with planting bus stop signs all over the entire 3-city area on the pretext of efficiency.