CHAMPAIGN — Officials with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will hold a hearing today on a number of what are called "relatively small changes" in their routes and schedule.
But a more significant change — limiting the locations where passengers can get on and off buses — may be a year away.
The hearing on route and schedule changes to go into effect this fall will be at 4:30 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Illinois Terminal, 45 E. University Ave., C. That hearing will be preceded at 3 p.m. by a public hearing on the MTD's $38.7 million operating budget for the upcoming year.
The most substantive change for this fall, said MTD Managing Director Bill Volk, is the creation of a new line, known as the Ruby, to serve parts of northeast Urbana up to Airport Road north of Interstate 74.
"Most of these are relatively small changes," Volk said, "with some schedule changes on the Yellow and Blue routes and changes on the Lavender from Dobbins Downs up to the North Prospect area so that we serve Meijer, Wal-Mart and Aldi."
The Lime Line schedule will be revised so it has improved connections to the Green Line.
The biggest change this fall, Volk said, will be to change what is known as the Northeast Direct service — a demand-response van service — to the fixed route Ruby Line using a bus. The route will run from downtown Urbana up Cunningham Avenue up to areas both west and east of U.S. 45 north of Interstate 74. The route will have a 40-minute service frequency, Volk said.
"We're basically phasing out the direct services because in many cases it's too hard," Volk said. "We have enough people that it makes it hard for us to meet the demand with one vehicle on a demand-response basis. It also relies on the operator using a cellphone to talk to the individual passengers. We're trying to get away from that from a safety standpoint."
More than a year away, Volk said, is a change that would affect every MTD route.
"I don't know when it's going to happen, but we're working on trying to consolidate bus stops throughout the community. We've done it in the (University of Illinois) campus area already. What we're looking at is consolidating the stops and marking them all with bus stop signs."
Passengers would be able to board and depart buses only at designated stops.
"It's confusing for new people in the community because most systems stop only at bus stops that are marked. We're unusual in that regard," Volk said. "I'm sure we're going to get some pushback on that. Americans generally don't like to walk very far, but we feel that it will help us in a couple different ways. One, we feel that by not stopping as often there will be a cumulative effect on our fuel economy and our brake wear. As well, we think it will help us improve and maintain our on-time performance."
The MTD is looking at the possibility of restricting stops beginning in August 2013.
"It will all depend on how fast we can consolidate," Volk said. "We have to balance where the people are boarding now, as well as safety considerations. We need to look at that and then actually go out and physically put bus stops signs in. Both of those jobs are going to take some time."