NORMAL (WEEK) -- Connect Transit's funding gap has been a continuous problem and could cause the company to become insolvent by 2026, according to a working group established by the public transportation company to examine services and funding issues.
The Connect to the Future Working Group is comprised of Connect Transit board of trustees and community members who have worked to explore solutions to ridership and funding issues facing the company. The group met for the first time in June 2019.
The continuation of Connect Transit would require additional funding by a combination of public and private dollars, according to the group's recommendations.
Connect Transit released the group's findings Tuesday, which recommends funding alternatives and how to better serve the Bloomington-Normal community. Funding would come from three different factors -- rider fares, state assistance, and annual investments by the town of Normal and city of Bloomington.
One recommendation by the work group is to decrease transportation rates for low-income and disabled residents.
The work group recommends one rate for all riders. One-way routes would be increased from $1 to $1.25 and those who utilize Connect Mobility would see their fares reduced to $1.25.
Connect Transit will also be seeking assistance from the Illinois Department of Transportation Downstate Operating Assistance Program to cover 65% of increased operating expenses from the changes recommended with the balance needed in local funding, according to the release.
The work group is recommending a combined $500,000 increase of annual investments from Bloomington and Normal.
The recommendation also calls for the completion of 90 bus stops in 2002 and an increase in pace of 20% until all stops are completed by 2024.