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Connect Transit Board Modifies Pink Route, Hires Facilitator

Transit bus in Uptown
Jeff Smudde
Connect Transit will alter the Pink route to pick up stops lost to route changes.

The Connect Transit board on Tuesday approved changes to the Pink route that officials say will soften the blow when the Olive route is eliminated next week.

The Pink route heading northbound will now provide service to Orlando Avenue and the Northbrook area. The rest of the route remains unchanged.

The change will accommodate 93% of service from the Olive route. The remaining 7% of stops on Fort Jesse Road and Beech Street saw on average no daily usage and remain within a half-mile of an alternate route stop.

Board member John Bowman was the sole no vote. He said the board and transit staff did not look into alternate route options.

Bowman suggested altering the route to accommodate more Olive route users, but taking away a stop from Rockingham Drive in North Normal.

“It’s under a quarter-mile from Rockingham (Street) to get over to School Street,” Bowman said. “So if we’re saying people can walk up to a half-mile, that shouldn’t be a hardship for them to get a bus on School (Street).”

Board Chairman Mike McCurdy acknowledged the modified Pink route as a compromise, saying it won’t address every concern.

Vice Chair Ryan Whitehouse agreed, saying the route change is a “good faith effort” to solve problems expressed by the community.

The changed Pink route will only operate service to Orlando Avenue on northbound trips. Transit staff say this is to maintain a 30-minute schedule.

The new Pink route will be evaluated in six months to measure effectiveness in maintaining service to former Olive route stops.

Connect Transit will hold an education session Wednesday at Normal City Hall (fourth floor) to inform the public about the Pink route changes. The board expressed intent to schedule additional information sessions and the possibility of a mobile session on a bus at the Orlando stop.

The route change goes into effect Monday.

Fare Increases and Facilitator

At the close of the meeting, the board agreed to ask Connect Transit staff to push back the rollout of fare increases from Oct. 1 to January, allowing staff time to consider budgetary impacts and to create a proposal. That delay would require a board vote at a future meeting. The Bloomington City Council has signaled it may be willing to put up extra money to avoid some or all fare increases.

Meanwhile, the Connect Transit board also approved a $53,000 facilitator contract with Smart Growth America for the Connect To The Future working group.

“We as transit trustees do not expect for Connect Transit to be responsible for, perhaps, the total reimbursement,” board member Judy Buchanan said. She said she expects the Town of Normal and City of Bloomington to provide some financial support.

Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne said the facilitator will capture comments and concerns of the community regarding local transit.

“Transit in this community has been on the radar of more people in the last six to eight months than I can recall in many years,” Buchanan said.

She said the working group is Connect Transit’s way of acknowledging the public’s interest and turning it into action.

Board member Bowman was the sole opponent of this vote too, questioning why a facilitator is needed. He criticized the board, saying Connect Transit could have saved money by listening to the public themselves.

Vice Chair Whitehouse rebuked Bowman, saying it’s unfair to accuse his fellow board members of not listening when Bowman knows how hard the board works to consider and apply public input. He said Bowman shouldn’t chastise the board over a difference of opinion.

Bowman later admitted the lack of listening he was referring to was on behalf of the near 40 emails sent to Connect Transit staff that he argued were withheld from public comment. He said the board has “been forced” to listen and never publicly apologized for the oversight.

Chairman McCurdy interjected, saying hotly contested conversations like that are an example of why a facilitator is needed in the first place.

“We have to get it right,” McCurdy said before admitting that recent frustrations over fare increases and route changes are not the only areas of tension.

Board Member Monica Bullington pointed to the impartiality of a facilitator as the ideal mediator between Connect Transit and the public.

Editor's note: Connect Transit board chair Mike McCurdy is also GLT's program director.

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