The monthly ridership numbers for Bloomington Transit were again a bright spot for the board of the public transportation agency at its meeting last Tuesday.
September this year was the first time monthly ridership on BT fixed route buses had exceeded 300,000 passengers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit three and a half years ago.
In her report to the board, planning and special projects manager Shelley Strimaitis highlighted the 300,000 rider milestone for ridership recovery. Continue reading “Transit notebook: Post-pandemic Bloomington bus ridership continues to rise”
BT board member Kent McDaniel
BT board member Doug Horn
From left: BT general manager John Connell, board president James McLary
Bloomington Transit board meeting, Sept. 19, 2023
Shelley Strimaitis (BT’s planning and special projects manager)
BT ridership chart through August
At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Bloomington Transit’s five-member board approved a total of $2.8 million in spending.
The three big approvals broke down like this: a contract with Foursquare ITP for an east-west high-frequency transit corridor feasibility study ($450,000); a contract with ETA Transit for computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location information technology ($850,000); and a purchase order from Gillig LLC for eight dual port charging stations for electric buses ($1.5 million).
But those three items had all been long in the works. None were unexpected.
Providing at least a mild, and pleasant, surprise was the monthly ridership report from planning and special projects manager Shelley Strimaitis.
The weekday ridership on fixed-route BT buses is now around 90 percent of pre-COVID pandemic levels, Strimaitis reported. Continue reading “Back on board Bloomington buses: Ridership boost in August 2023 compared to pre-pandemic numbers”
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.
It’s part of BT’s plan to convert its entire fleet of 40 fixed-route buses to battery electric vehicles by 2050. BT is using matching federal funds as well as money from the increase in Bloomington’s local income tax to pay for the electric vehicles. Continue reading “Public bus notebook: Bloomington Transit orders 4 more electric buses, expects delivery in late 2024”
Sunday public bus service will get a boost from Bloomington Transit (BT) starting on March 26.
Initially passengers won’t have to pay a fare to board on Sundays.
There’s currently some Sunday service on Route 6 and Route 9.
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.
The added Sunday routes will run once an hour. The choice of routes to be added was based in part on driver availability, but also on the ridership of the routes for the days when service is currently offered, Huneck said. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit notebook: Sunday service starts March 26, fare collection systems to get a look”
Battery-electric bus at the downtown transit center on Jan. 13, 2023.
Bloomington Transit board member Doug Horn.
Bloomington Transit board chair James McClary.
Month over month ridership charts.
Map extracted from strategic plan.
The image is from the Monroe County online property lookup system.
Bloomington Transit board meeting (Jan. 17, 2023).
The big news out of Bloomington Transit’s (BT’s) regular board meeting on Tuesday was the unanimous adoption of a strategic plan.
It was developed with help from consultant Foursquare ITP, under a $100,000 contract.
An item on Tuesday’s agenda with a much bigger price tag was the $7.9 million approval of a purchase order with Gillig Corporation for eight battery-electric buses.
But the electric bus purchase order intersects with at least two of the four initiatives that are listed out in the strategic plan: partnerships and engagement (Initiative 1); and modernization of operations (Initiative 2). Continue reading “Strategic plan for Bloomington Transit calls for collaboration, extending service beyond city limits”
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 money is coming from the increase to the local income tax that was approved by the city council in May of 2022.
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.
The new transit initiatives come as BT is clawing back ridership on its regular fixed route service, after a big drop when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit OKs 5-year deal, will get $3.8 million annually from city’s local income tax”
Ridership numbers, through June, for BT continue to show improvement over last year, but are still falling short of pre-pandemic figures.
The Bloomington city council’s approval of a local income tax increase earlier this year, which is supposed to earmark about $4 million a year to support public transit, is already reflected in the first draft of Bloomington Transit’s 2023 budget.
Bloomington Transit board members reviewed the draft budget at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
The $34 million that is proposed to be spent in 2023 is more than double the $15 million approved for this year’s budget.
Most of the increase is due to the capital cost of buying 18 new buses—four replacements, eight for expanded service, and six for increased frequency. All of those buses would be battery-electric vehicles.
Some of the increase is due to factors that are not unique to Bloomington. The line item for fuel, in the supplies category, will be increasing from $877,500 to $1,472,500. Right now, diesel fuel costs $4.30 per gallon. That stacks up against the 2022 budgeted amount of $2.75 per gallon. So given the market uncertainty, the draft 2023 budget has allowed $5.25 per gallon for diesel fuel.
Two key questions came from BT board member Kent McDaniel, who on Wednesday was re-appointed to the board by the Bloomington city council: How will BT pay for all those buses, and where will they be stored? Continue reading “Booming Bloomington Transit budget in 2023: Will more than double, from $15M to $34M”
Bloomington Transit bus plies its route on Feb. 3, 2022.
Bloomington Transit drivers got some recognition from general manager John Connell at the five-member board’s regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night.
About the performance of drivers during the snowstorm and its aftermath on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, Connell said, “I think our drivers did an incredible job. They had the toughest challenge.”
The debriefing on how things went during the snow was one of several topics BT staff reported to the board at their meeting.
One of the main business items appearing on the agenda was the annual financial agreement with Indiana University to allow affiliates of the school—students, faculty and staff—to board buses without paying a fare. That had been put off from the previous month’s meeting, because IU had not yet agreed to terms.
The agreement approved by BT’s board on Tuesday night reflects a 2.5% increase—which is half the 5-percent increase that BT was looking for from IU.
In pre-pandemic times, about 70 percent of ridership came from IU affiliates.
Ridership on fixed routes is still down compared to pre-pandemic times. For January this year, the 152,000 fixed route rides were three times the number given in January 2021, but about half the number in January 2020. That was was the next-to-last month before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt. Continue reading “Transit notebook: Snowstorm debrief, deal OK’d with IU, ridership still down, strategic plan moves forward”
Measured by scooter rides, life in Bloomington has not yet returned to the pre-pandemic norms.
Numbers available through the city’s B Clear platform show that for August and September of 2021, a total of 106,083 rides were taken on a shared electric scooter, which is 69 percent of the 154,486 rides taken during the same period in 2019. Continue reading “Data notebook: Bloomington’s electric scooter ridership at 70 percent of pre-pandemic levels”
At its Tuesday meeting, the five-member Bloomington Transit board voted to approve a side letter agreement with AFSCME Local 613, which is the drivers union.
The agreement is hoped to aid recruitment of new drivers—BT is currently short by about a dozen. The agreement is also hoped to reduce a recent spate of cancelled bus runs, chronicled on BT’s Twitter account, due to lack of drivers on the overtime list.
The side letter increases starting pay for drivers by $2 an hour—from $16.32 to $18.32—and gives those with more experience a $1,000 essential-worker bonus.
The context of the phrase “essential worker” connects to the COVID-19 pandemic. Drivers were still expected to keep the buses running, even though the number of service hours was reduced.
To cover the cost of the essential-worker bonus, BT will use money it received through the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.
The side letter approved by the board also requires at least 12 drivers to sign up for the overtime list. The letter also clarifies the wording of the existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) about how overtime can be mandated and the right to refuse a withdrawal from the overtime list.
The side letter is still contingent on a vote of the union membership. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit OKs side letter with drivers union: Pay bump, $1,000 essential-worker bonus”