Public Transit Receives Financial Boost

Macomb, IL – Work could begin faster on McDonough County Public Transportation's new vehicle maintenance center on East Pierce Street in Macomb. The Illinois Department of Transportation has added roughly $3.85 million dollars to an existing grant agreement, originally worth about $2 million.

Public Transit Director Gary Ziegler says this will expedite phase one of the project.

"The plans are currently being reviewed by IDOT, and also by the city of Macomb's Building and Zoning Office," says Ziegler. "Once we have their approvals or sign offs on the plans, then we'll be ready to bid it."

Ziegler says phase one of the vehicle maintenance center project should cost about $4 million. That will cover the cost of renovating the building, which will include "six or seven" maintenance bays. It will also allow MCPT to purchase necessary maintenance equipment.

If IDOT and the city agree to the plans, Ziegler says the project could go out to bid next month, and the first phase could be finished by November.

There should still be hundreds of thousands of dollars left over after the maintenance center work is complete. That's why Ziegler says about $630,000 will go toward the purchase of new buses - which should arrive by the middle of next month.

Ziegler says both large and medium sized vehicles will arrive to replace members of the fleet that are nearing the end of their useful lives, some of which are nearly 30 years old. The 35 and 40 foot buses will be used on Routes 1 (Red), 2 (Green) and occasionally 5 (Brown), while the medium duty buses can be used on every route.

MCPT will try to use a different grant to help pay for its web based Automatic Vehicle Locator, or A-V-L system, and text-message based schedule inquiry system. The Macomb City Council has allowed MCPT to apply for a grant that, if received, would cover about half of the system's operating costs over the next three years.

GoWest director Jude Kiah says the text message scheduling system, RouteShout, has been a huge success since its official launch in January. He says the system is receiving about 250 hits per day. He says rural systems such as these are uncommon, but so far proving popular.

"All big cities have A-V-L, but it just wasn't within our economic reach," says Kiah. "When we found something that was within our economic reach, we knew [the passengers] would go after it. People want that information, and we're able to provide it now."

The current system is capped at 100,000 text messagehits per year, but Kiah says he'll likely talk to the company to see if the limit can be increased.