BLOOMINGTON — Connect Transit has developed an interactive map to keep customers informed of its progress in making all of its 459 bus stops compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act by 2024.
"It is just an effort for us to be as transparent as possible about the improvements that we are doing to the system," said Connect Transit Board Chairman Mike McCurdy. "So anyone now can go in and look at the stops and see the progress at the stop nearest to them or the one they use the most."
“Improving bus stops is extremely important to us and our customers," added Connect Transit General Manager Isaac Thorne. "We believe we will be one of the few, if not only system in the nation with the goal of 100 percent compliance on ADA bus stops."
That goal was set in the Better Bus Stop campaign, approved by the Connect Transit board in March 2018.
"The map shows how many stops we have scheduled, which ones have completed and the ones that are in design," Thorne said.
The map is available at www.connect-transit.com/riding/infrastructure.asp.
About two-thirds of Connect Transit's bus stops are already compliant under a reasonable modification standard, said Thorne.
"We want to take it a step further and at every single location that we possibly can put in an ADA-compliant concrete pad that connects the sidewalk to the curb," he added.
"But the challenges that we are running into right now and the past few years is there are many areas where we don't even have sidewalks on roads, so we're having to put in sections of sidewalk and our ADA-compliant concrete pad as well."
"LIFE CIL commends Connect Transit for their commitment to improve accessibility at all bus stops through their enhanced Better Bus Stop campaign," Rickielee Benecke, executive director for the Center for Independent Living in Bloomingon, said in an emailed statement. "We look forward to working together with Connect Transit to ensure that all people, regardless of disability, can get to the bus stops.
"LIFE CIL continues to advocate for accessibility at all stops and notes that numerous stops that are highly inaccessible are not currently listed as a priority," she added. "We hope to work with Connect Transit to eliminate these and other accessibility concerns. Additionally, we encourage the city (of Bloomington) and town (of Normal) to work together to provide the necessary infrastructure improvements that are needed to enable all persons safe access to public transportation."
In 2019, Connect Transit completed 19 bus stops. In 2020, 18 bus stops have been completed and 20 more have been designed and will be completed this spring, Thorne said.
Fifteen bus stops are waiting on obtaining private property easement agreements. During fiscal 2021, which begins July 1, 70 more stops are scheduled to be completed, he added.
The Better Bus Stop campaign was started "well before we had large amounts of complaints," said Thorne. "At that point in time, we said the same things we are saying today and that is we want to make all of our bus stops ADA compliant.
"It's going to cost an additional $2.5 million to make all the bus stops compliant by 2024," said Thorne.
That's an estimate because every site is different and subject to design changes that could cost more money, said Thorne.
For example, there could be additional expense if more square feet of sidewalk have to be put in or ripped out to make the bus stops ADA compliant, he said.
Last year Connect Transit was awarded a $500,000 federal grant and that money can leverage an additional $900,000 from the Illinois Department of Transportation "that we can pour into this program and go a little bit faster," said Thorne.
"I definitely understand the frustrations and concerns, but this is something we have worked on and we've put more concentrated effort in getting the funds for it and increasing the number of stops we do on annual basis," he added.
The Illinois Attorney General's Office is investigating a complaint related to Connect Transit's ADA compliance. Thorne said the agency has submitted additional information requested by AG office's Disability Rights Bureau "and we're waiting to hear back from them."
Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle