CUMTD Providing Free Rides to Polling Places on Election Day

An+election+judge+hands+a+ballot+to+a+voter+at+the+Salvation+Army+in+Champaign%2C+on+election+day%2C+Tuesday%2C+Nov.+6%2C+2012.

Daily Illini File Photo

An election judge hands a ballot to a voter at the Salvation Army in Champaign, on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

By Michael Semeca and Sabrina Yan

This election day, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will be providing free rides to voters trying to get to their polling places. The offer will be valid on Tuesday, November 8 from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For many people, the public transportation that the bus system provides is the only way of getting to polling places.  Jan Kijowski, CUMTD’s marketing manager, said the company wants to make sure that voting is accessible to all people so that they can have their voices heard. 

“Everybody needs to have the opportunity to vote, and those who don’t have other opportunities to travel, their opportunity to vote could be taken away if they’re not able to get there somehow,” Kijowski said. “We wanted to help facilitate that.”

It will be the first time that the buses will be giving free rides on election day for at least a decade, said Kijowski. The offer was created in response to a community member’s request.

“We gave it some thought and took a look at what it would entail and decided to give it a try,” she said.

To take the free ride, passengers must know their assigned polling location and which bus will lead there. Registered voters can find their polling place on the Champaign County Clerk’s website and can plan their trip using Mass Transit District’s website.

One of the considerations the company’s team analyzed was the potential impact this would have on the day’s revenues. Kijowski said the vast majority of rides are paid for using yearly, monthly or student passes and that only a small number of citizens pay for rides regularly with cash. So, the impact on revenue should be relatively small.

“The cash fare on a typical Tuesday in November, and that’s what the revenue cost would be, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500,” Kijowski said. “So really not a significant number, but certainly something we took into consideration.”

This is not the first time the buses have implemented a free ride program; Kijowski said a similar offer was launched on Earth Day a few years ago. On that occasion, ridership numbers increased slightly, and Kijowski estimated that this will be no different.

“I expect to see a bump in the daily ridership, but since this is the first time we’ve done this day in particular, and it’s an interesting election season, I think we’ll see some new riders and some extra rides taken that day,” she said.

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