CHAMPAIGN — Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District buses could begin offering expanded service to the Stephens Family YMCA as early as January, Director Bill Volk said Wednesday.
The change is precipitated by Tuesday night's vote by the board of the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District that it eventually will dissolve.
The YMCA is located within the boundaries of the Champaign Southwest district, which has never provided service and was formed in 2006 to block expansion of the larger MTD.
"If this indication by the Southwest board is taken by our board as a good faith move, then the board, I would imagine based on what they've said in the past, would move toward establishing service," Volk said.
The C-U MTD board indicated in April, in agreeing to a statement by board member Don Uchtmann, that it would support expanding service to the YMCA and the nearby Windsor West Apartments complex once the smaller MTD board began to move toward dissolution.
"I would expect the board to indicate to us to move ahead. Then we would probably try to establish service at the beginning of the second semester at the (University of Illinois), which would be Jan. 14 when classes start up again," Volk said.
The MTD board meets next on Dec. 5, and it could give the go-ahead at that time, Volk said.
"From a staff perspective, we'll probably suggest that we get with the YMCA and possibly do some work ahead of time in terms of service hours. We don't know when they need assistance, when people are coming and going," he said.
The first expansion to the YMCA, Volk said, likely would be by means of a van service that now operates during peak hours only from the Country Fair shopping center in west Champaign.
"What we will probably do is extend this service in a longer timeframe," he said, possibly throughout the day and into the evening.
A longer-term solution, including placing the YMCA on one of the MTD's fixed routes, will have to wait until next August, when the MTD makes its annual route and schedule changes.
"Whenever we have something on the edge of the community, it's difficult to make it convenient to get there for everyone," Volk said. "The best thing we can do is to hook something in from Country Fair for now. We have four bus lines that go there — the Green, the Orange, the Blue and the Brown. So we can take a smaller vehicle and go out there from Country Fair."
He said there probably wouldn't be any other changes to the C-U MTD routes this winter, even if the Champaign Southwest MTD goes out of business. But he said the larger MTD eventually would look at serving a condominium development proposed in the Turnberrry Ridge subdivision.
The Champaign Southwest board voted unanimously Tuesday to send a letter to about 500 of its constituents who are not in the C-U MTD district inviting them to form their own transit district. It also voted not to levy property taxes this year, effectively shutting down its sole source of funding.
If no one acts to form a new district within three months, the Champaign Southwest board decided, it will vote on a resolution asking the county board to put it out of business.
"The effect of such formation would be to block C-U MTD from forcibly annexing your territory, thereby imposing its taxes and its buses onto such territory," says the two-page letter, written by the Champaign Southwest MTD's attorney, Brett Kepley. He wrote that the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 would pay an additional $175 to $190 a year once annexed by the C-U MTD. A home assessed at $300,000 would pay $265 to $285 more annually.
The letter explains how a new transit district could be proposed and voted on by residents of the territory not currently in the C-U MTD.
"The district can control its own transportation issues and expenses without imposition by the C-U MTD," the letter says. "While CSWMTD overlaps areas of C-U MTD, CSWMTD is powerless to prevent C-U MTD from exercising its taxing powers and busing operations within the overlapped areas. CSWMTD cannot under law disconnect the areas overlapping with C-U MTD. If CSWMTD dissolves without a new district being formed in its replacement in the area outside C-U MTD, such area would be subject to annexation under unilateral action taken by the C-U MTD."