The Illinois attorney general’s office is investigating a complaint related to Connect Transit and whether it’s violating state accessibility laws.
The office’s Disability Rights Bureau has asked for Connect Transit to provide additional information as part of the investigation, said attorney general's office spokesperson Annie Thompson.
Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne said his agency has responded to the request.
Thorne said about two thirds of the roughly 400 Connect Transit bus stops meet ADA provisions. He said work on ADA issues began three years ago.
“The board approved the Better Bus Stops campaign in March of 2018. We have been working pretty steadily over the last year and a half improving bus stops with shelters, benches, whatnot. Before that, however, we worked with the Town of Normal and City of Bloomington to make bus stops compliant," said Thorne.
Prior to 2016, Connect Transit administrators had not placed a high priority on ADA compliance.
"There is no agency in America that has 100% ADA compliance on bus stops. This is something every agency struggles with. Most agencies were in existence prior to the ADA law being passed. We're all playing catchup. However, I do believe we are much further along in this process than most agencies," said Thorne.
Connect Transit has improved 53 bus stops over the last year and a half, according to a news release Thursday announcing federal grant money to support the Better Bus Stops program.
The ADA complaint was filed about a month ago.
Coincidentally, U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood and U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth on Thursday announced the $500,000 federal grant to improve bus stops.
“It is important that we have a safe, reliable public transit system. I'm proud to see Connect Transit receive these funds to continue their Better Bus Stop campaign. I have seen the improved bus stops firsthand and know they are improving rider safety. As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I will continue to be an advocate for projects that benefit the communities I serve," said Davis.
“Public transit is a critical component of Illinois’s dynamic transportation system,” said Duckworth. “Today’s funding will help make sure Illinoisans have reliable and safe transportation options to get them where they need to go. I will continue working with Senator Durbin to secure federal resources for projects like these and other critical infrastructure projects across our state.”
Thorne said that money can leverage $900,000 in state funds to bring between 150 and 200 bus stops into compliance over the next six years.
The wide range in the estimate, Thorne said, comes because bus stop sites vary in complexity.
“Municipalities, historically have not allowed pallets and improved bus stop installation unless there is sidewalk access. They have not wanted people accessing bus stops from the street or curb cuts for ADA access directly from the stop into the street,” said Thorne. “Recently, Bloomington and Normal have begun to rethink that and allowing curb cuts in come cases. It will potentially take them 10 years to install all the needed sidewalk."
Thorne also noted cities are not the only entities with jurisdiction in the issue. In some cases, he said the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) or other agencies have the responsibility for sidewalks along state or other routes.
Thorne said he doubts the combined $1.4 million in state and federal funds announced this week will be enough to finish the job of assuring compliance.
Connect Transit began service to Bloomington-Normal in 1972.
As a matter of disclosure, WGLT Program Director Mike McCurdy is also the chair of the Connect Transit board.
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