Rising costs, other issues pressure public transit

·3 min read

McDONOUGH COUNTY — An ongoing driver shortage, cost increases and low ridership are putting pressure on the McDonough County Public Transportation (MCPT) authority. These situations are forcing it to make significant changes to some routes and equipment usage.

In recent years, the MCPT has taken pride in its ability to operate efficiently at lower costs when compared with other transit authorities. However, public transportation was hit hard across the country by fallout from the pandemic and other issues, according to Miranda Lambert, Transit Director at the Aug. 5 meeting.

During discussion of the 2021 fiscal year, she said this year there was “sticker shock” on equipment and purchasing. There was a 32.6 percent increase in purchased transportation. Her question was: How do we stay within our expenses this year?

The Purple 11 route was an evening, on campus route that had low ridership, and was turned off last year. A Demand Response vehicle has now been set up that will circle around campus until midnight when the library closes. Route 18 is temporarily offline.

MCPT helped Genesis Gardens with delivering food last year, with each set of groceries being counted as a ride. While this helped the ridership numbers, the partnership ended in January 22.

A change in population was noted, with MCPT having older, more regular riders.

The national driver shortage has resulted in an advertising campaign by both entities: Durham and Go West. Six people were interviewed from the open houses that were held. MCPT is passing out flyers at the Monmouth Car Show, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the upcoming Block Party. Yard signs and a job fair in September are some other strategies.

Use of Micro transit vehicles are also being considered. A Micro transit vehicle can hold 14 people and can be used on routes that do not have very many riders. MCPT does not have a specific vehicle for it, but will be testing out a Demand Response vehicle in this capacity this year.

Everything but Route 19 will stay the same. There are two locations that are no longer serviced: the DMV and River Run apartments. People in those locations can get a ride by request only, by calling dispatch for a ride.

In FY 2021, Go West had 18,206 service hours and 221,934 miles driven.

Grant applications were also discussed. They have been approved on the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) side, but MCPT is waiting for the agreements to come in at the end of the month. These can then be presented to the Macomb City Council meeting by September, and bids can be taken.

The reimbursement for a forklift battery and lawnmower was received in July from the Rebuild Illinois Capital Application. The application for a 35' transit bus and 23' medium duty bus is in process. The Rebuild Illinois Round 2 awards include a technology project for $67,000 and a bus pads project for $240,000

One of the Capital Application projects is 100 percent complete. This project is six heavy duty transit buses, construction of nine ADA accessible bus stop shelters and concrete pads, and the installation of on-board security cameras on the Go West fleet.

The other Capital Application project was tabled until more exploration into possible rehabilitation sites and program funding stability could be achieved. This project allocated capital funds to acquire land, engineering design, and for construction costs for a transit vehicle storage building. Funding for this project is available until 2023.

The 5339 Federal Capital Grant gives 80 percent funding and a 20 percent match contribution. A Go West micro duty bus would cost MCPT between $20,000 and $40,000, while a cost for a regular sized bus would be between $100,000 and $150,000.

“We're looking forward to a good year,” Lambert said.

This article originally appeared on The McDonough County Voice: Rising costs, etc. put McDonough County's transit under pressure