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.
Between 12:43 p.m. and 12:48 p.m., an edit was made to the statement’s final paragraph. Instead of describing Bloomington as “a safe place,” the revised statement says Bloomington is “a relatively safe place.”
Chart of Bloomington Transit budget breakdown for the last eight years, and next year’s proposed 20202 budget.
Lew May, Bloomington Transit’s general manager. On Aug. 20, May presented his 21st budget to Bloomington’s city council. “It’s been a great ride at Bloomington Transit.” (Dave Askins/Beaon)
Possible federal grants are a key part of the Bloomington Transit 2020 budget presented to the city council on Tuesday by the public transit agency’s general manager, Lew May. Councilmembers appeared receptive to the planned $4 million in capital expenditures to acquire four more alternative-fuel buses.
BT is also applying for a federal grant to fund a shared-ride microtransit pilot program to take up the slack on certain routes after fixed-route service ends for the day.
Council president Dave Rollo suggested looking beyond traditional federal funding sources. Among the local funding sources he suggested were tax increment finance funds and local income taxes.
A budget increase of $87,000 to cover an outside contract to add a security officer at BT’s downtown transit station drew scrutiny from councilmembers.
As it did on Monday, which was the first day of a week’s worth of departmental budget hearings, climate change drove a lot of the council’s commentary. Councilmembers wanted BT to consider adding solar panels to a new roof for the BT facility on Grimes Lane, which is currently budgeted for $363,250.
Before the unanimous straw vote was taken by councilmembers in support of the proposed budget, Dave Rollo said, “We are running out of time. And we need to direct capital to Bloomington Transit, if we’re going to be serious about climate—it’s got to be part of the strategy.”
The council’s vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 10 after getting a first reading on Sept. 25.
Fresh numbers provided by Bloomington Transit show that total bus ridership last year dropped for the fourth year in a row. And the decrease was driven mostly by decreases in ridership by university affiliates—students and faculty.
The roughly 3.1 million rides taken on Bloomington public buses in 2018—by university affiliates or rank-and-file resident riders—reflect a 6-percent decrease compared to the year before, and a 13-percent decrease compared to the peak of 3.51 million rides taken in 2014.
The recent four-year downward slide follows a few years of slowing growth and a plateau, after a 50-percent increase in ridership from 2005 to 2010.
Ridership in 2018 was the lowest in nearly a decade. The most recent year with lower ridership than in 2018 was 2009, when 3.03 million trips were taken.