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.