CHAMPAIGN — Peoria Charter Coach will expand its direct motorcoach service between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago starting Monday, the company's local operations manager said.
On Monday, the company will add daily departures from Illinois Terminal in Champaign at 5:45 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., with stops at Midway Airport, Union Station and O'Hare Airport.
Peoria Charter Coach already operates a direct run to Chicago with a 3 p.m. departure from Illinois Terminal. That goes directly to Midway, with service to Oak Brook, O'Hare and Woodfield Mall.
The afternoon run, which began Nov. 1, "was kind of a pilot for us to see whether we wanted to start direct service on all trips," said George McLin, Peoria Charter's operations manager in Champaign-Urbana.
Peoria Charter expected to provide direct service on all trips eventually, but the exit of Lincolnland Express — better known as LEX — from the market this month speeded up those plans, he said.
"When it was official that LEX was out, we knew people needed transportation to these spots, especially to Union Station," McLin said.
Earlier this week, Express Air Coach announced it would begin providing three trips daily between the University of Illinois and O'Hare Airport on Dec. 18.
Suburban Express also provides daily service to Chicago via its Illini Shuttle.
Before launching direct service in November, Peoria Charter transported Chicago-bound passengers from Champaign-Urbana to Normal, where they transferred to another Peoria Charter bus going to Chicago.
"We were charging $25 for that service," he said. The new direct service to Chicago will be $30 for a one-way trip, he added.
The service to Chicago uses 55-seat motorcoaches. That's a switch from previous service to Normal, which used vans on days when ticket sales were low, McLin said.
Since full-size motorcoaches are available every day now, Peoria Charter Coach is dropping its requirement to make reservations 24 hours in advance, McLin said.
Now passengers can call for reservations 10 minutes in advance and pay cash for a ticket either at Illinois Terminal or from the driver, he said.
Passengers headed to Chicago from Champaign can catch Peoria Charter motorcoaches on the UI campus, as well as at Illinois Terminal.
McLin said that after leaving Illinois Terminal, the morning buses stop at Follett's Bookstore at Wright and Green streets; at Fourth Street and Armory Avenue in Champaign; and at the Illinois Street Residence Hall in Urbana.
The afternoon bus stops at Fourth and Armory, the Pennsylvania Avenue and Florida Avenue residence halls and the Illinois Street Residence Hall before leaving town.
The 5:45 a.m. departure from Champaign is scheduled to reach Midway Airport at 8:50 a.m., Union Station at 9:20 a.m. and O'Hare Airport at 10 a.m.
The 9:40 a.m. departure is scheduled to reach Midway at 12:45 p.m., Union Station at 1:15 p.m. and O'Hare at 2:05 p.m.
McLin said Peoria Charter Coach will continue service to Bloomington-Normal, using the "daily college connect" that goes to Illinois State University in Normal and Bradley University in Peoria. Those trips leave Champaign's Illinois Terminal at 9:40 a.m. and 1:35 p.m.
"We're looking at adding the Peoria and Bloomington airports on that run," McLin said. "That's under evaluation right now."
More details are available at http://www.peoriacharter.com.