By: Diane Benjamin
This will be the final story documenting the Normal council meeting held on 10/7/2019
See the other parts here – they all tie together:
The Connect Transit problem is now clear. The Board, appointed by both mayors, has a mission that doesn’t align with what taxpayers expect a transit system to be.
Keep in mind: EVERY ride on a bus is subsidized. The $1 fare doesn’t cover any rides, the cost varies with the number of riders – but it is around $4. https://blnnews.com/2019/08/16/who-is-the-working-group-working-for/
The more riders Connect recruits the more money they will lose. Maybe if the buses were full during all hours of operation the break-even point would close.
Of course that isn’t going to happen.
Kevin McCarthy stated a Public Transit system should serve all people: 3:07:00. Members of the Board follow stating they are trying to provide service to as many people as possible with limited funds. Both Mike McCurdy and Ryan Whitehouse constantly asked for more money if the Council wants under-served areas covered. McCurdy stated that if transit dependent riders are over-served other riders will come.
Most people will never ride the bus. Some of the current riders can afford other transportation – they choose to ride at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, people with no other transportation available are not being served. That is why groups started showing up at Council meetings. These people had tried talking to the Connect Transit Board and were ignored. The Working Group was created to make them think they would be heard.
2:47:15 – Chemberly Cummings tries to claim the grant for new buses must be used on electric buses. Whitehouse claims the grant is for low or no emission buses. Nord responded with the grants website doesn’t specify electric. The Board decided electric is the future, even though they are much heavier. Keep in mind, the electric buses are more expensive and Connect plans to spend $1,700,000 for solar panels. https://blnnews.com/2019/05/04/solar-panels-for-connect-transit-you-wont-approve/
McCurdy went on to claim they have never pulled service based on the size or weight of a bus. Nord refutes that claim.
3:02:40 – Karyn Smith questions their ridership data. Connect says again they count boardings as riders just like every transit system does. Karyn questioned whether transfers after restructuring are making it look like ridership is higher. McCurdy claims transfers are not up – that means Connect knows exactly how many people ride, we just aren’t being told. A FOIA was filed for transfer information.
3:16:15 – Board member Ryan Whitehouse stated the Board has been asked not to get involved in the Working Group until they are done. Meanwhile, Board members Judy Buchanan and Julie Hile are running the Working Group!
3:20:00 Stan Nord stated the Working Group was formed to address ADA and non service issues. He claims the public is coming to elected officials for help. At 3:22:45 Ryan Whitehouse claims nobody has come before the Connect Transit Board with problems.
3:25:45 Mike McCurdy claims empty buses are normal for a transit system because ridership is cyclical. McCurdy claimed he joined the Board in 2011 to push for amenities like shelters and bus stops. He repeats again “attracting the choice rider”. He never explains why the “choice” rider should be riding at taxpayer expense!
3:25:45 – Koos sounds like he will demand the Council fund more shelters. Meanwhile Connect is spending $184,000 on showers. Connect calls it a safety issue. $184,000!
3:28:50 – Kevin McCarthy requested his fellow Council members not make adversaries out of the Normal representatives. He also claims the Normal roads are NOT falling apart.
3:30:45 – MCurdy claims they don’t make a choice between serving any strategic types of riders. (dependent or choice) 3:31:50 – In response to another question from Stan, McCurdy claims they can’t serve trailer parks unless they get more funding. Whitehouse claims their job is to serve the most people with limited resources.
3:33:45 – Nord asked about the status of service at the Landings Trailer Park, he claimed they requested service. McCurdy claims too few rode to warrant service. Nord claims the larger buses made service impossible. McCurdy refutes that based on their data points.
3:36:20 – McCurdy claims ridership was decreasing before the route restructure. Presently it is not back to what it was before changes were made, but ridership is rising as people become familiar with the new routes.
3:38:30 – Stan asked about the VA Clinic. McCurdy claims he isn’t familiar with the details. Stan said the current bus stop is 120 yards away from the door. McCurdy claims staff will get back to him.
3:40:30 – McCurdy claimed building new shelters is maxed out by the construction season, Whitehouse claimed it’s money.
3:41:50 – Pam Reece claimed it isn’t unusual for showers to be available for hazardous jobs.
3:45:00 – Scott Preston wants the empty seat on the Board filled
3:46:40 – Stan asks McCurdy and Whitehouse to quit making long range changes until the Working Group finishes. He asks them to listen to their customers – like a business should.
3:48:15 – Chemberly Cummings claims this area is becoming more metropolitan and the Council should trust the experts. She claims she is data driven. Not with interest rates though: https://blnnews.com/2019/09/16/part-2-why-chemberly-isnt-fit-to-serve/
The entire discussion was useless.
The question remains:
What is the purpose of the local transit system?
Koos and Renner want everybody on the bus. Most people will never ride because they want the freedom their own transportation provides.
Nothing will change until Koos and Renner are replaced, followed by new Board members with a realistic responsive vision.