MTD pushes to save routes

Online Poster

By Erin Calandriello

Worried that all campus bus routes will be canceled, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) bus drivers recently circulated petitions asking student riders to support the renewal of the University transportation fee.

Campus bus routes, including the 21, 22, 23 and 26, are funded by a $38 fee paid by every University student. Students will vote on whether to renew the fee during campus elections March 8 and 9.

The MTD instructed all campus bus drivers to circulate petitions to riders so the question on whether to renew the fee and keep the campus routes would appear on the election ballot, said Bob Trinkle, MTD bus driver on the 22. The petition asked students for their name, e-mail and student ID number.

The petition circulated for several days until the Student Elections Commission agreed last week to put the question on the ballot.

However, the petitions were unnecessary, said MTD Managing Director Bill Volk.

“We ended up not turning in the petitions because the (University) Transportation Committee, under rules determined by the Student Elections Committee, recommended that a question be submitted to the students, which was identical to the one in the petitions,” Volk said.

Riley said the referendum question that will be presented to students will ask whether to continue the present service with only a slight increase to cover inflation.

“If the proposal by MTD was to expand or there was a significant raise in fees then a petition would have been essential,” Riley said.

He also said the petition was a precautionary measure taken by MTD to reassure continuation of its service on campus.

“MTD was just unclear as to whether or not they had to generate student signatures for renewal of bus service and they didn’t want to take a chance,” Riley said.

Friedman said the MTD has no intention of shutting down the campus bus service.

“We want to continue to provide service to the campus and to improve it,” Friedman said. “This is, of course, contingent on an affirmative vote to renew the fee which funds the service.”

Dawn Theusch, senior in FAA, said she supports the continuation of the MTD service.

“I depend on the 22 (bus route) to get to class,” Theusch said. “Most students depend on the MTD service, and I couldn’t imagine anyone voting against it.”

Trinkle agreed that students rely on the MTD service.

“I had no problem getting students to sign the petition,” Trinkle said. “I think the students really appreciate having the bus service. I would hate to lose the campus routes. I don’t think anyone including the students would want to see that happen.”

Friedman said the transportation system might undergo some changes in the future.

“The alternatives ranged from continuing to do what we are doing now to the possible creation of a fixed-guideway system such as a rail system,” Friedman said. “A fixed-guideway system in the campus area is one possible and attractive solution to (the vast amount of people who use the MTD service).”

Last year, the Urbana City Council voted “no” on a proposal for a light rail system because of the $178 million price tag. The Champaign City Council had voted earlier to delay consideration of the proposed system.

However, Friedman said that a fixed-guideway system might replace or supplement the current campus bus routes.

“The service provided would certainly be at least as good as the present campus bus service,” Friedman said. “Assuming the continuation of the student fee which funds it, we would not consider dropping the campus bus service without offering something at least as good in its place. We would hope that any changes to the system would be seen by the campus community – students, faculty, and staff – as improvements.”