CHAMPAIGN — Bus service that begins Monday to the Stephens Family YMCA of Champaign County is an "interim step" until a permanent solution comes in August, said the director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
But the chairman of the board of the upstart Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District thinks the bigger MTD should immediately offer frequent and regular service to the YMCA.
Beginning Monday, the MTD will offer a van service from the Country Fair Shopping Center to the YMCA. But it will not operate on weekends or evenings.
"They owe it to their citizens to transport them to where they need to go," said Edward Vaughan, chair of the Champaign Southwest MTD, which does not provide service and has been discussing going out of business. "They've got lots of money, because last night on television I saw at least three 'We Gotta Get There' ads. If they can afford all of that, they can afford to transport their citizens there."
The MTD also operates a Navy route that stops near the YMCA but passes by only three times each weekday afternoon, the last time at 6:40 p.m.
"You can't get a poor kid from northern Champaign, up by Interstate 74, to the YMCA in the morning and he can't get back at night on a decent, regularly scheduled run," Vaughan said. "It's up to them to run their doggone route where there's a need for their citizens. They're more interested in tooting their own horn with those ads. What do the taxpayers get out of those ads?"
But Linda Tortorelli, who has a disabled son who she has said would welcome service to the YMCA, said she wasn't displeased with the interim step.
"I have an appreciation for how difficult it is for any changes to happen in large organizations. I am impressed and grateful that the MTD has been able to quickly enact some changes to their routes to begin service to the YMCA next week," said Tortorelli, an administrator at the University of Illinois. "I am confident that the service our community needs will be provided, within a reasonable time, once initial service begins rolling."
Bill Volk, the longtime managing director of the C-U MTD, said the YMCA eventually will get enhanced service but not without a full study.
"We plan to have some discussions with the neighborhoods out there. We did this in order to get things going as quickly as we could, but we have other things to take into consideration when we do fixed-route service," he said. "There's a 175-unit apartment building that (developer Jerry) Ramshaw is working on in the Turnberry Ridge area. They want a commitment to bus service before they build out there. That goes into our thinking on the whole thing. We wanted to be careful before we put a fixed route out there right away. We want to see what the demand is at the Y during the week, and we'll look at it after that."
Fixed-route service to the YMCA likely will begin in August, Volk said.
"We try to connect high-density areas to generators and we don't know what kind of a generator the Y will be," he said. "This is an interim step toward developing service to the area. We've said all along that we're getting this service in as quickly as we can and then look at it over the next three or four months before making a decision on a fixed route."
Meanwhile, Vaughan said there will be no discussion of dissolving the 6-year-old Champaign Southwest MTD before its next meeting in March.
The directors of the smaller MTD have invited other opponents of the C-U MTD to form another mass transit district that would provide service in the area, but Vaughan said so far no one has expressed interest. If no on takes up the task, the Champaign Southwest MTD board members say they will ask the Champaign County Board to dissolve their district.
The smaller district has stopped levying property taxes, but still has about $80,000 from earlier tax levies.
"We can last long enough for another district, if they choose to form. But somebody needs to get off their you-know-what if they're going to do it," Vaughan said.