For some time, it has been clear that Rockford Mass Transit District is headed in new directions. But after several public hearings to exchange information, those affected want to know: where is RMTD going, and will some riders be left out in the cold?
Last week, RMTD came out with new schedules, and a number of training sessions for passengers have been held. A total of 22 routes including a new Alpine Crosstown, North & South Big Loops, and a State Street Circulator have been set up. Still, many passengers wonder what will happen to their established schedules for getting to work, going shopping, and doing errands. Some new areas have been added while other routes have been partially absorbed by the new schedule or eliminated altogether.
RMTD Executive Director Rick McVinnie states in his introduction in the Route & Schedule Booklet, we are committed to providing safe, efficient, affordable, dependable and accessible transportation services.
But is this actually the case? How efficient and accessible is it? One of the RMTD drivers recently spoke at length with The Rock River Times, and she noted some discrepancies and problems with the service. We are not identifying her by name for reasons of confidentiality.
The booklet says, We have also made an attempt to streamline our service by making each run consistent, no more confusing deviations.
Driver: Theyre not deviating on the west side. But Alpine Crosstownlook at the loops that bus is making around Highcrest, Comanche, Guilfordthen it makes a loop along Morsay and Lynmar on East State. Outbound, it goes out to the Post Office… on American Road and Hydrauliclook at all of these loops. But it doesnt want to deviate if we go on the North Main route, #4. It goes to Riverside, Shepherd Trail, to Northrock; on Elmwood Road it needs to go to Milestone, but it doesnt. There are three shifts of people who work at Milestone. None of them can get their bus. The bus will only go on Elmwood and North Main. They wont be able to get to work.
Some routes have been streamlined. The #1 West State runs every half hour all day long. Leaving the transfer center, it runs straight along West State with only two loops, around Horace, Preston and Daisyfield, and around Atwood, Claremont and Westmoreland before coming back. It no longer goes down North Johnston Avenue. But look at the other buses, said the driver. Look when they will be leaving the transfer center. Lets say a west-side passenger wants to get to Seventh Street at 9 a.m. As it is now, you can pick up the outbound bus on Johnston. This is the Seventh Street going out, and its straight going all the way; you will be on time. But as of March 1, when the new schedule takes effect, this is no longer the case. You could board the 7:40 a.m. School Street, which gets to the transfer center at 8:10. If you get the 8:25 bus, it gets to the transfer center at 8:55, said the driver. Then you have to wait until 9:15 to get the Seventh Street because you just missed the 8:45 bus.
If you take the West State out, it turns into East State, explained the driver. It goes out to Forest Plaza. Then you have to connect with the #21 State Street Circulator. According to the booklet, ê indicates a transfer point as it appears on the map. But, asked the driver, where are they going to transfer to make connections with the State Street Circulator? There is no ê listed. If we look at these directions, theres nothing there.
Driver: If you take #11 East State at the transfer center at 5:15 a.m., it gets to Mulford Village at 5:30. But the East State Circulator doesnt get to Mulford Village until 6:45. The next bus on East State (#11) arrives at Mulford Village at 6:20. But the East State Street Circulator doesnt get to Mulford until 7:15. The third bus at Mulford Village coming from East State arrives at 6:50. The #21 East State Street Circulator arrives at Mulford at 7:45. West-side passengers are getting a minimum of service while some east-side routes have more deviations to accommodate them.
Changes have also been made to Saturday service. The driver noted #7 South Main does not run at all on Saturday. And theyre developing South Main. On the East State route, the last bus on Saturday leaves at 5:45. The East State Street route does not show people how to transfer at the Clock Tower.
How about people taking the bus to work? Driver: The #20 Alpine Crosstown bus affects the working people. Currently, the bus leaves downtown at 5:15 and 5:45 a.m. to take people to work at the Post Office/industrial park area. It also goes to the industrial park off Samuelson Road. Because those buses leave early in the morning, they [passengers] have to be at work at 6 oclock or 6:30. But now look at the time points at the top [of schedule]. It goes out directly to Colonial Village, arriving at 5:50, then to East State & Lynmar, Alpine & Highcrest, Alpine & Windsor, Alpine & Rt. 173. It doesnt go to Rock Valley College. After it goes to Colonial Village, it doesnt go to the factories. It doesnt get back to the industrial park until 7:20 a.m., but right now these men have been getting to work at 6:30. Now they cant get there until 7:15.
The #12 Charles Street leaves downtown at 5:15 a.m. and gets to Colonial Village at 5:35, to Alpine & Harrison at 5:40. The next bus gets there one hour later at 6:40. This bus has been getting people there at 6 oclock. Now they will not connect. They cant walk from Alpine & Harrison at 5:40 to the Post Office by 6 oclock. The Charles Street route has been changed so it will not run every half hour until 7:45 a.m. Thats going to the industrial park… People who live there are trying to get to work but wont be able to make their connection. Its a shame.