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Politics and Government

Bloomington Could Offset Connect Mobility Fare Hikes

Bloomington City Hall
Eric Stock
Bloomington could be kicking in additional funding to Connect Transit to avoid fare hikes for its Connect Mobility riders.

Bloomington could soon be tipping its hand in how much its willing to help Connect Transit's on-demand service for elderly riders and those with disabilities.
The Bloomington City Council will consider a resolution Monday that asks the transit agency's working group to consider if its proposed fare increases for its Connect Mobility riders are necessary and to look for ways to offset the cost.

City Manager Tim Gleason said the city is prepared to cover those fare hikes if there's no other way.

“I’ve got a council that has a strong desire to potentially fund an additional amount to allow Connect Transit to hold the mobility fare rate as they currently are,” Gleason said.

That would cost the city about $30,000 per year. Connect Transit officials addressed the council last week after council member Jeff Crabill proposed rejecting the Connect Transit budget over the proposed fare hikes and elimination of the Olive route in Normal.

Connect Transit has proposed a compromise: using Pink route buses to pick up riders in the Orlando-Northbrook area, an area with a high concentration of low income and limited mobility riders.

The transit board will consider it at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Gleason said for many on the council, they were hearing these concerns for the first time and feel it's vital the city be prepared to help.

“There’s varying opinions (on the council), but the one where I think I am on the firmest ground – and it’s captured in the resolution –  is the desire not to negatively impact the Orlando (Avenue area) residents,” he said.

Gleason said the city would also be willing to set up a reserve fund for Connect Mobility door-stop service on snow days when city plows can't clear the roads in time.

“It is not financially realistic that public works employees are going to shovel sidewalks to get people to the bus stops,” Gleason said.

That would cost about $10,000 per year.

Gleason advised Connect Transit to seek other funding sources to help cover the added costs, including the Town of Normal, which also subsidizes the service, and seek grants. 

He added it's too early to say there the city would find the money, but he added the city would find a way if necessary. 

"I don't want to be dismissive about the kind of numbers we are talking about, but on a $225 million budget ... $40,000 is not that much at the end of the day," Gleason said.

The rate hikes to Connect Mobility are part of a series of fee increases Connect Transit is implementing to balance its budget.

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