RMTD still trying to find the way—part one

Welcome to another episode in the continuing story of Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) passengers and drivers trying to carve a path through the “improved” new route system. RMTD shared some information with The Rock River Times is too long to reprint in entirety. Here are some excerpts:

“The Big Loop route is a bi-directional route which runs along the outer edges of the RMTD service area and more importantly, offers connection points with all of the other routes within the system. The hope is that as passengers become familiar with Big Loop, they will use [it] to connect to other routes, rather than ride all the way downtown… The Big Loop route runs bi-directionally every 45 minutes… Throughout the Big Loop route, there will always be two buses servicing the area. In some instances, commute times can be reduced simply by crossing the street… The Big Loop also replaces portions of the Broadway route.

“Passengers traveling in the North Main & Huffman corridors will find that service has improved with the introduction of the No. 3 Huffman route. The Huffman route will leave downtown and travel via Ridge and Auburn to Huffman every hour. Passengers will no longer have to deal with the long headway delays in the middle of the day due to current route deviations to accommodate both North Main and Huffman. The North Main route will also benefit from the new Huffman route in that service will no longer have to be split between the two corridors, and North Main service will stay on North Main Street every hour.

“Other significant changes include the Kilburn route and the Alpine Crosstown route. The new No. 6 Kilburn route picks up portions of the old Kenmore route and will service the Center of Hope twice a day. The Alpine Crosstown route, No. 20, will run the entire length of Alpine…

“Perhaps the areas that will see the greatest impact from the system are those riders on the Greenwood route. RMTD has taken the current, unproductive, two-hour Greenwood route and pared it down into three routes, hitting the areas where a known passenger base exists, and dropping off the areas where there is little to no demand. The No. 13 Rural route will now pick up most of the Greenwood route, reaching the YMCA, Park Terrace Apartments, and heading down Rural to Parkview, before returning back to the Transfer Center. The area off Alpine by Highcrest Road, formerly on the Greenwood route, will now be serviced by the No. 20 Alpine Crosstown route, both inbound and outbound…

“While the changes to the new routes may seem foreboding at the present time, the overall intention of the changes is to ultimately increase ridership for the District. ‘Our ridership has been flat for several years now,’ says Rick McVinnie. ‘The time has come for us to look at areas of our city that needed service where there was none before and to improve service where productivity is low… One of the biggest hurdles was attempting to make improvements while maintaining the current budget levels. We had heard through the public sessions some disappointment in not adding more buses to reduce the wait times between buses. The problem with adding buses is that labor makes up approximately 60 percent of our budget, and adding buses means adding labor, which is not possible in these economic times. We have been able to expand the service area and make the service more convenient for many. We are aware that some people will have to make adjustments to their long-established travel patterns, and those people are not happy. However, we have made many adjustments as a result of the public sessions, and our goal is to inconvenience as few as possible…’”

Well, that depends on whom you ask. On March 8, a passenger on the 5:15 p.m. School Street bus asked the driver if he got off at Gray’s IGA, when could he catch the next bus back? The driver replied: “There isn’t any. This is the last one today.” In other words, Sorry, fella, you’re stranded.

Another passenger on that bus noted that the Big Loop would be helpful if it wasn’t confined to the outskirts of town but went to more stores where people could shop. He observed that in Chicago, in some areas you could get a bus almost every five minutes. “Here,” he said, “if you miss a bus, you might have to wait 45 minutes or even an hour.”

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