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A Metra Park-n-Ride for Oswego's east side? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
A Metra Park-n-Ride for Oswego's east side?
Village conducting online survey to gauge public interest; early response favorable

by John Etheredge

8/28/2014

There is public interest in the Village of Oswego offering Park-n-Ride service to Metra riders living east of the Fox River, according to early results from an online survey now being conducted by the village.

Steve Jones, village administrator, said as of last Friday 86 people had identified themselves in the survey as either "likely" or "somewhat likely" to use the Park-n-Ride service if it is offered from a location on the village's east side.

Referring to the 86 favorable responses, Jones said, "Just this number alone is encouraging to me that we need to come up with a Park-n-Ride location east of the river and we need to start the process of planning a location now."

The village has offered weekday commuter bus service between its Park-n-Ride facility near Orchard and Mill roads on the village's far west side since 2004.

The buses, owned and operated by KAT (Kendall Area Transit), transport Metra riders from the Park-n-Ride lot to the Metra station at the downtown Aurora Transportation Center (ATC). There are a total of five departures to the ATC each morning and five return trips in the late afternoon and early evening.

Parking at the Park-n-Ride is free. A 10 ride bus pass is $17.50 while the cost for a monthly pass is $30.

Until a few years ago, in the wake of the 2008 recession, buses were transporting over 100 Metra riders each day between the Park-n-Ride and the ATC. However, the number of riders tumbled when the village-in a cost-cutting move-reduced the number of morning departures and evening return trips.

Jones said ridership from the facility dropped to about 40 to 45 per day and has increased only marginally in recent years even though the village has increased the departure and return trips to five in each direction. In addition, the village also undertook a marketing campaign to promote greater use of the Park-n-Ride by residents of the village and other nearby communities, including the City of Yorkville and the Village of Montgomery.

The drop in ridership has prompted some village residents and officials to question the village's continued subsidizing of the Park-n-Ride service. Initially, the village used federal grant moneys to pay Pace (the Regional Transportation Authority's suburban bus service) to provide bus service for the facility. However, the grant money ran out a few years ago, so the village assumed the responsibility of paying for the service.

This year, the village will pay about $95,000 to have KAT provide bus service to the facility, according to Jones.

A decade ago, village officials sought the Park-n-Ride as the first step towards eventually securing the construction of a full-fledged Metra station. Completed in June 2004, the Park-n-Ride has 120 parking spaces and is located along the south side of Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway's main line tracks, which extend southwest from Aurora. The Park-n-Ride is designed to one day accommodate a Metra station on the site.



Locate second
site off Douglas Road?


Jones noted the Park-n-Ride's location is not convenient for many residents of the village who live east of the Fox River. Those residents, he said, likely find it easier to drive up Ill. Route 25 to reach the ATC than to drive west across the river to access the Park-n-Ride where they then have to board a bus for a ride to the ATC.

Jones added that he believes that a second Park-n-Ride location in the vicinity of U.S. Route 30 and Douglas Road would prove an attractive location for Metra riders on the village's east side.

He also noted that a location further south along Douglas Road near U.S. Route 34 would likely prove less successful because people living north of Route 34 may not want to drive south to the location and then board buses to take them back north to the ATC.

"Right now, I think trying this is a no-brainer, it's just a question of working out the details," Jones said.

"What we have looked to do is to get an agreement with one of our big retail property owners where they set aside 15 or 20 parking spaces in their lot away from the stores so we could stage a bus there and the Metra riders could park there," Jones said, adding, "It would be in their (the retail property owners) best interest because they would have a captive audience of 20, 30 or 50 people getting off a bus each day and its in front of say, the Jewel. What could be more convenient? People could get off the bus and shop."

To provide bus service to an east side Park-n-Ride site, Jones added that the village could potentially switch two of the five morning and return departures from the existing Park-n-Ride to serve the new site.

"Obviously it would impact service on the west side," Jones said, adding, "Regardless of how many routes we would kick over to the east side, people would look at it as we are diminishing their service. But the key is we want the service to be sustainable in the future. Right now we are paying between $90,000 and $95,000 per year for KAT bus service and we need to have a growing service that is more sustainable."

Jones said he and other village officials are encouraging village residents to log onto the village's website at owegoil.org and complete the survey. The survey, he said, will remain on the site into the fall.

Jones emphasized he is pleased with the early survey results.

"If we have 86 people who say they are either somewhat or likely to use this (east side) service and half of them are serious, well, that could double our existing number of Park-n-Ride passengers," he said, adding, "As soon as we get some real serious data we want to have locations (for an east side Park-n-Ride site) in our minds and approved and ready to go. Then, we'll be able to tell KAT on a certain day, start the (new) service."




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