Bloomington Transit plans to alter public bus routes in August 2020, in an effort to improve efficiency and better servegrowing areas of the community. But some community members still have concerns.
Zac Huneck, Bloomington Transit planning and special projects manager, said the bus routes have been the same for more than 20 years. The proposed changes are in response to a decline in ridership in the past four years.
“It’s a budget-neutral project, meaning we’re not getting any additional funding,” Huneck said. “The idea is to try to find efficiencies throughout the network, especially where services overlap or duplicate each other. It’s working with the same amount of resources to try to deliver better service.”
Huneck said the company collaborated with IU’s Campus Bus Service to conduct a yearlong survey assessing the “transit potential” of each area of Bloomington. Transit potential considers data points such as population density, job density, current ridership data and access to private vehicles.
Now that the study is complete, the company has drafted a proposed transit planand is going through the process of gathering public feedback. Huneck said nothing is finalized at this point, and the routes will continue to be discussed until early 2020. They will not go into effect until August 2020.
“We fully expect to make adjustments to what we’ve got from the study, just based on the feedback we get throughout this process,” Huneck said.
Kelly Clark, owner and founder of Patient PT in Bloomington, said she drafted a proposal for Bloomington Transit and attended a public comment session Dec. 3.
Clark runs a pro bono program within her physical therapy business. She said one of her patients was unable to participate because of a lack of bus service to her office.
Clark attended the session to appeal for a bus service on North Walnut Street north of Indiana State Road 45.
“The vast majority of people right here in the immediate area don’t have as much of a need for public transportation, but right here, just in this little couple of blocks, there are several relatively low-income housing units and the office spaces,” Clark said.
Huneck said the lack of affordable housing in Bloomington resulted in more residents moving to the outskirts of the town. He said one of the goals of the proposal is to service those areas that are relatively new and weren’t included in the transit plans before.
“The affordable housing issue is a multifaceted issue, and transportation is certainly a huge part of it," Huneck said. "It’s part of our equation, but it’s one that we can’t solve alone.”
Part of the proposal includes moving the bus stop at Tulip Tree Apartments to the end of the apartment complex’s driveway rather than where it is now within the parking lot. Huneck said the proposal tried to limit the number of parking lots buses drive through.
At a public comment session at Tulip Tree Apartments on Wednesday night, many residents expressed concerns about this change. They said the proximity of the bus stop was important to them and had safety concerns about moving the bus stop’s location to 10th Street, a busy road.
“It’s not like saying we’re going to move the stop 10 feet closer or maybe just around the corner; this is like ostensibly eliminating our stop altogether,” said Tulip Tree resident Gavin Mariano. “We’re kind of isolated on campus as it is, then we’re kind of pushed back in 150 feet. It’s just really disappointing that they did that.”
Mariano said he appreciates Bloomington Transit’s willingness to take public feedback. However, he said the comment session was not publicized, and he posted his own flyers around the building to notify residents that it was happening.
Huneck said he will present the feedback his team has gathered from the community to Bloomington Transit’s board of directors early next week. The board will continue discussing the routes and bus stops at their meetings, which are at 5:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at 130 W. Grimes Lane. The board meetings are open to the public.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Mariano's name. The IDS regrets this error.