Four more battery electric buses have been ordered by Bloomington Transit (BT) with a total cost of $4.5 million.
Approval of the bus order came at Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of BT’s five-member board.
BT general manager John Connell told the board that the expected delivery of the vehicles, to be manufactured by GILLIG, is at least a year and a half away—sometime in the fourth quarter of 2024. That makes for a total of 16 electric buses that are on order by BT.
When passengers pay cash for the $1 fare in order to board one of Bloomington Transit’s 42 fixed-route buses, they put the money into a CENTSaBILL farebox.
The farebox counts the coins or validates the dollar bill, which makes it in some sense “smart.”
But the current fareboxes are obsolete and no longer supported. One of the basic approaches to fare collection now being considered by BT is to use “dumb fareboxes”—which would serve as a receptacle for the money, but wouldn’t validate the amount.
The new “mobile ticketing” approach would focus technology on validating passes and providing passengers with some additional options for buying tickets and passes.
BT’s five-member board voted unanimously at its Tuesday meeting last week, to ask Left Turn Right Turn, which is BT’s fare collection consultant, to forge ahead with development of a request for proposals from vendors in the mobile ticketing market.
If the BT board eventually awards a contract to a mobile ticketing vendor, that would mean passengers dropping cash fares into a “dumb” farebox.
But Sunday service for at least a few more routes will be added starting on the last Sunday of March.
At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, planning and special projects manager Zac Huneck told the BT board that additional Sunday routes will include: Route 3 East; Route 3 West; Route 2 West; and Route 2 South.
Screenshot of the Doublemap app that lets riders know where the bus is.
Bloomington Transit general manager John Connell congratulates Donny Reynolds on his reitirement.
BT driver Donny Reynolds in the rear view mirror of his Route #5 bus.
Bus driver Donny Reynolds greets passengers for his first run of the day on Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.
On Friday morning, driver Donny Reynolds was posted outside the Route #5 bus at Bloomington’s downtown transit center, greeting a couple of passengers as they boarded.
“Good morning and watch your step—it’s dark in there right now!”
Reynolds flipped on the inside lights as soon as he slid into the driver’s seat. He was starting the first run of his final day driving a public bus in Bloomington.
His first day at the wheel of a Bloomington public bus came 43 years ago on June 2, 1979. At that time, the bus service was provided through a city department, before the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation was established.
Bloomington Transit will receive at least $3.8 million a year for the next five years from the city of Bloomington, under an interlocal agreement approved by BT’s five-member board at its final meeting of the year, on Dec. 20.
The agreement still needs to win approval from Bloomington’s city council.
The deal is expected to appear on a city council meeting agenda sometime in January, based on remarks from BT general manager John Connell at last week’s board meeting.
The big initiative that the money is supposed to help fund is an east-west crosstown express route.
Some other specific initiatives that the money is supposed to pay for include: implementation of Sunday service in the first quarter of 2023; enhancement of the paratransit microtransit services; increasing frequency of weekday service; and development of a ridership subsidy program.
Bloomington Transit’s five-member board has approved in concept the idea that the Go Bloomington program will tap into BT’s existing arrangements with Uber and Lyft, to give program participants a guaranteed ride home.
The idea behind a “guaranteed ride home” feature is that someone might be more inclined to take the public bus, bicycle, or walk to work—if they know that they have a backstop for any unexpected transportation need.
If someone’s day unfolds in an unexpected way, they’ll be able to use a voucher with Uber or Lyft to handle whatever scenario has come up.
Bloomington plan commissioner Brad Wisler (Nov. 14, 2022).
Monroe County commissioner Julie Thomas (Nov. 14, 2022)
Bloomington plan commissioner (Nov. 14, 2022).
Monroe County attorney Jeff Cockerill (Nov. 14, 2022)
The Monroe County government’s planned construction of a new jail on an 87-acre parcel in the southwest corner of Bloomington hit a snag on Monday night.
By a 6–3 vote, Bloomington’s plan commission supported the planning staff’s recommendation to send a negative recommendation to the city council about Monroe County government’s request for a rezone of the 87 acres, so that a jail could be built there.
The county government’s request would change the zoning of the land from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use institutional (MI). Use of the property as a jail would not be allowed under ME, but could be allowed under MI.
A jail is a “conditional use” under MI zoning.
That means even if the city council were to approve the rezone, Monroe County government would still have to go through the conditional use approval process in front of the city’s board of zoning appeals.
On Monday, a staff attorney for the county, Jeff Cockerill, told the plan commission that Monroe County had a purchase agreement for the land, contingent on approval of a rezone—but that agreement expires at the end of the year.
There’s now a 10-day timeframe for planning director Scott Robinson to certify the outcome of the plan commission’s Monday recommendation to the city clerk. That would set up Monroe County government with enough time to hit the deadline for submission of the materials to the city council office for the council’s Dec. 7 meeting, when the rezone could get a first reading.
BT ridership is starting to recover, but has still not reached pre-pandemic levels.
Bloomington Transit’s five-member board wants general manager John Connell to get legal advice on a specific question about the steps, if any, that need to be taken so that public bus service can be offered outside Bloomington’s city limits.
That was the outcome of a half hour’s worth of discussion at the BT board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.
The board’s discussion came after Bloomington’s city council approved an early-September resolution expressing its support for extending BT’s service to Daniels Way, which is west of the city limits. Service to Daniels Way could serve Ivy Tech and Cook Medical, among other destinations.
At its September meeting, the BT board had already discussed the legal significance of the city council’s resolution. Their immediate concern was to determine if the resolution was an adequate legal basis for extending service outside the city limits. It wasn’t.