MTD holds public hearing to address schedule, route changes

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) held a public hearing Wednesday on the fourth floor of the Illinois Terminal. CUMTD officials listened to public comments on the budget and appropriations and the proposed route changes for the upcoming year.

CUMTD will be adding a Ruby Line, a route that will replace the demand-response service to northeast Urbana, north of I-74 to Airport Road. Under the current setup, riders must call CUMTD for van-service pickups, similar to the SafeRides service provided on campus.

Jan Kijowski, the marketing director for CUMTD, said the addition will make operations more efficient. Because van drivers must communicate with each other via cellphones, a regular bus service will also reduce the dangers that accompany cellphone use behind the wheel.

Proposed route changes that would affect campus include the removal of the Lavender Express Line, which runs through campus in the morning and the late afternoon only, and the addition of a bus to all services on the Yellow Line, the most popular line students use to go off campus. The additional bus is meant to keep the timetables more accurate and on schedule; on this line, buses are supposed to arrive at each stop every 10 minutes during the regular daytime operation.

“On the current schedule, there are 20 minute gaps, but with the extra bus, it will be 10 minute gaps,” said Drew Bargmann, planner for CUMTD.

Previously, CUMTD had a handful of buses on standby — such as one parked on Wright Street next to the North Quad — throughout the service area that could be added to any line that was backed up or not making it to bus stops on time.

When and where to add the buses is “more of an art than a science,” Kijowski said.

For the upcoming year, Kijowski said, slight changes will be made to the schedule for the Yellow Line, but the frequency of stops would remain the same.

She also said that the additional bus would cost about $120 per hour, the average operating cost for CUMTD buses.

Other route changes include improvements on the Blue Line and a more efficient connection of the Lime and Green Lines at the Country Fair stop in Champaign.

Bill Volk, the managing director for CUMTD, said there will be permanent bus stops added to every route by fall 2013. The signs will be added systematically before the start of the University school year in 2013 rather than incrementally throughout the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Kijowski said.

Starting with campus, CUMTD has been adding permanent stops to its routes, eventually creating them for the Green Line and the Teal Line on White Street, for example. Adding these stops throughout the rest of C-U has been talked about for a few years now, Volk said.

The permanent bus stops are meant to make it easier for first-time users to navigate the bus routes because designated stops will be everywhere. In the current setup, it’s difficult for the bus drivers to know where a rider wants to exit the bus after they pull the yellow cord.

These stops would all be marked with signs that designate the only places that riders may board and exit the buses.

“If we consolidate stops, we can invest in more amenities at the individual stops,” Volk said. These amenities include benches, shelters and electronic timetables.

Generally, the stops will most likely be at every other block, but Bargmann said CUMTD has been monitoring traffic and stop patterns and communicating with experienced drivers to devise the most efficient stops.

Volk said most communities outside of C-U have these kinds of stops. The permanent stops would also reduce stop time, which would help to increase fuel efficiency and reduce costs. Because buses will be stopping less, drivers will be able to better maintain the timetable schedules, making MTD a more reliable service for its riders.