More buses, more Metra Park-n-Ride users : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|More buses, more Metra Park-n-Ride users|
|Number of morning departures, return trips increased Jan. 2 |
|by John Etheredge|
Oswego's Metra Park-n-Ride lot began a new era last week when KAT (Kendall Area Transit) began providing bus service to the facility.
KAT replaced the Pace bus service which had served the facility since it opened in June 2004.
Located near the northwest corner of Orchard and Mill roads on village's west side, the Park-n-Ride serves as an auxiliary parking lot to the Metra station at the downtown Aurora Transportation Center (ATC).
Buses serving the Park-n-Ride transport area Metra riders to the ATC on weekday mornings and then return them to the Park-n-Ride in the evening.
Steve Jones, village administrator, said Monday the change from Pace to KAT bus service which began Jan. 2 has so far gone smoothly.
"According to the (KAT) drivers, everything has gone well," Jones said, adding, "We also received a compliment from one resident that came in via e-mail who said the seats on the KAT buses are so much more comfortable than those on the Pace buses."
Referring to the KAT drivers, Jones said, "They did some practice runs before they actually started the service so they were familiar with the route and there were no serious issues with them leaving (the Park-n-Ride) and getting to the station on time."
Jones and other village officials are hopeful the switch from Pace to KAT will serve to boost the use of the Park-n-Ride.
Ridership on the Pace buses had plummeted over the past four years from a peak of about 140 riders to about 25.
Jones attributed the decline in ridership to a combination of factors, including the bad economy over the past four years and a reduction in daily bus trips to and from the facility.
For the first seven years of the Park-n-Ride's operation, the village financed the Pace bus service with a federal transportation grant. But when the grant ran out at the end of 2009, the village was left to pick-up significantly more of the cost for the bus service. To save money on its contract with Pace, the village board had Pace reduce its number of daily departure and return trips from six to three.
When Pace officials proposed raising the cost for continuing their reduced service from $95,000 to $106,000 early last year, the board instructed village staff to look for an alternate bus service.
After several months of negotiation, the board voted 4-2 in September to approve a three-year contract for bus service with KAT at an annual cost of $84,000. Under terms of the contract, KAT will increase the number of morning departure and evening return trips from three to five. In addition, KAT agreed to make its dial-a-ride service available to all village residents.
Jones said he is hopeful use of the Park-n-Ride will build over the next several months and years.
"I would say in six months I would like to see that ridership double to 50-plus riders and then continue to rise up to about the 140 daily riders we enjoyed at the peak (of ridership)," he said.
Jones said he is hopeful that increasing the number of daily departure and return trips will help attract more riders-including some who may have stopped using the Park-n-Ride when Pace cut the daily trips from six to three.
"We did have one of the drivers tell us that one of the riders told him they hadn't been riding the bus because of the reduced schedule, but this person knew our new schedule was coming into play so they took the bus," Jones said. "Hopefully, we'll be hearing a lot more stories like that."
As part of its contract with KAT, the village assumed responsibility over the sale of passes. Parking remains free in the Park-n-Ride lot.
The cost for a monthly pass is $30 and $17.50 for a 10-ride pass. One-way fares-which can be paid on the bus and must be exact change only-are $3.50.
Jones said passes may also be ordered on the village's website at oswegoil.org.
He noted, however, that passes cannot be printed from the village's website. Instead, he said, those ordering the passes should allow a few days for their passes to arrive in the mail.
Monthly and 10 ride passes may also be purchased in person at village hall at 100 Parkers Mill, and at the following other locations: Oswego Police Department, 3525 U.S. Route 34; Montgomery Village Hall, 200 North River Street; Yorkville City Hall, 800 Game Farm road; and Plano City Hall, 17 East Main Street.
Jones said the village's finance director, Mark Horton, is continuing to talk with City of Aurora officials in an effort to have the passes sold at the ATC.
"Hopefully-hopefully we'll get them (Aurora officials) on line so our customers will have another convenient option to buy their passes," he said.
Jones said village staff will also be increasing its marketing of the Park-n-Ride.
"We have a couple of ideas about getting the word out into the community in the event people aren't seeing it on our website or in our newsletter, etc.," he said, adding, "Really, marketing the Park-n-Ride is a full-time thing because we have new people moving to town every day who may or may not know about the service. As we work through this transition with KAT and the word gets out about it, perhaps we can get some mentions out through more informal methods like local church bulletins. We'll see."
'We are providing
a service here...'
The village sought and secured state and federal grants a decade ago to construct the Park-n-Ride as the first step towards one day opening a full-fledged Metra station on the site.
Currently, Metra officials are having a consultant complete an initial engineering study for the proposed station and a station in neighboring Montgomery.
Jones said the study remains, for now, in Metra's hands.
Asked if it was a good thing for the village to contract with KAT and to continue to operate the Park-n-Ride-even though it costs the village money, Jones said, "The Park-n-Ride, like any other form of public transportation, takes vehicles off the road. That, in effect, makes it better for the rest of us who have to drive. It also provides an alternate transportation service for those who, for whatever reason, can't drive. Whether they drive to the station, are dropped off or chain a bicycle to a post out there those are all methods by which people get to work. We are providing a service here."
Jones noted the number of people living close to the Park-n-Ride could increase significantly over the next several years.
Last month the board again reviewed plans for a development on the north side of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway tracks west of Orchard Road, which would have a large apartment complex. In addition, another developer is expected to complete the Mill Street station townhome development at the northeast corner of Orchard and Mill roads this year.