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Normal Town Council approves funding for new Connect Transit projects

Connect Transit buses
Staff
/
WGLT
Connect Transit plans to debut its new micro-transit service next spring.

The Normal Town Council approved $200,000 of annual funding through fiscal year 2025-26 for Connect Transit at Monday night’s meeting.

Those funds come from the American Rescue Plan and will support Connect Transit as it pursues new services in the near future.

Micro-transit

One new service planned is micro transit. It’s an app-based, on-demand service to help groups of people get to work or into town for other responsibilities together. It’s also able to get people from one point to a fixed Connect Transit route. Connect Transit general manager David Braun said some people find the fixed routes difficult to find, and he hopes micro-transit can help resolve that issue.

Fare collection will run through an app, with scheduling available through that app or over the phone as well. For those unbanked, cash and ticket fare collection is also available. Town Council member Chemberly Cummings said that’s a detail she values.

“I love that consideration. And to me that means this has been really thought about in many ways, and I appreciate that,” Cummings said.

She also complimented the Connect Transit board, saying she hopes they continue to “always think outside the box and continue to touch as many of our residents as possible.”

Braun said he hopes micro-transit will be ready for the general public by next spring.

Route expansion

A route expansion to cover more of the Bloomington-Normal area, including the Rivian plant, is in the works. With the hiring boom brought on by the electric automaker, the necessity for public transportation has increased.

The route runs from Uptown Normal down College Avenue, makes its way to the Rivian plant, heads down to Market Street, and goes through Downtown Bloomington, stopping at Walmart along the way.

Braun said the proposed route would replace the current Lime Express route.

“We’d be eliminating that route, but then replacing it with this route with the same frequency and actually more service because we’d be running this route on the weekends,” Braun said.

The expanded route requires four buses to run.

Spending

Council member Stan Nord cast the only dissenting vote on the funding proposal. Nord said he felt the money being asked for was premature considering when services like micro-transit would be available.

“To give (the money) to you, gosh, a year out? That’s a little bit of a stretch, because I think as taxpayers they expect if we give money, there’s some quick return,” Nord said. “And had we not had these COVID dollars come to us … I’m just not certain you’d be here asking us for this money right now.”

Nord made a motion to make a one-time payment of $67,000 instead of the recurring $200,000 initiative. The motion failed due to the lack of a second.

Connect Transit continues to put money towards its electric buses. Braun said by fall 2023, one third of its fleet will be electric. A transportation hub in downtown Bloomington is also in the works.

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