August 16, 2010

Web Extra: Illinois transit expands campus bus service



More college students in Central Illinois now have easier, free access to public transportation after the recent approval of two contracts by Heartland Community College and Lincoln College-Normal with Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System (B-NPTS) for its Universal Access Program.

 

The Universal Access Program allows students and staff on participating campuses to present their college ID cards instead of paying a fare. Lincoln College’s agreement, the exception of the three campuses, only covers students; faculty is not part of the program.

 

This is the first time Heartland Community College entered the agreement with the transit agency; Lincoln Community College renewed its program contract. Illinois State University (ISU), the first school to join the program, back in 2003, renewed its contract at $156,151.56.

 

Lincoln’s contract, in the amount of $8,030, went into effect on July 1. Heartland’s agreement totaled $44,839.07 and has been active since August 1. The agency tracks ridership numbers and associated expenses to calculate contract costs.

 

“Some schools, like ISU, it comes out of the Parking and Transportation Office budget. I believe Heartland put it on as a fee. Each college determines how they’re going to pay for the program and where the money will come from, such as a student fee or tuition,” Melanie Overend, marketing director, B-NPTS, explained.

 

The creation of the Universal Access Program, Overend added, stemmed from a realization by ISU and B-NPTS that students needed more transportation options when B-NPTS’ worked with ISU to provide late night transportation around campus a few years ago. “The University wanted to collaborate with us and we wanted to collaborate with them." Two transportation studies, one conducted by ISU and the other by B-NPTS, pointed to the need to work together to provide  public transportation options for students, faculty and staff at ISU. "The program just built from there,” Overend said.

 

Additionally, B-NPTS was recently awarded two grants, which will help it to accommodate its extra passengers: a Consolidated Vehicle Procurement agreement for three medium-duty paratransit vehicles, through the Illinois Department of Transportation and Downstate Operating Assistance for $5.8 million for the state-eligible portion of its Fiscal Year 2011 operating expenses.

 

 

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