By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
A major bike trail overhaul, improvements to bus service and an energized car and van pooling program have all worked to the benefit of Madison County Transit and the public it serves.
“We’ve been busy, it’s been a great year honestly,” MCT spokesman SJ Morrison said.
In January and May, MCT implemented two major service changes, adding Sunday and evening bus service. The goal of both was to improve access to employment.
During public meetings regarding service, many passengers told MCT that they could not work certain shifts or even take a particular job because they didn’t have transportation to get there.
In December, MCT began a new, regional automated fare-collection system, the same as what the Metro service is gravitating to in St. Louis. About a fourth of MCT’s riders use Metro fare media for transfers to and from routes involving St. Louis and St. Clair counties, Morrison said.
The new system allows riders to use “contactless smart cards” that can be read with new electronic validators. The system also allows for printing on-board passes.
The system allows many more riding options, including a newly implemented, two-hour local pass for only $2 and a $3, two-hour regional pass good anywhere in the metropolitan region. Previously MCT riders could only buy the more expensive monthly passes.
The passes are printed with a bar code that can be read by the validator, speeding up the entire process.
“Not only does it improve the passenger experience, because it gives them more options, but it also improves the experience for our drivers, operationally,” Morrison said.
The system will be completely rolled out with the new year.
Meanwhile, the year 2015 also brought dramatic improvements to The Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail formerly owned by the village of Glen Carbon and transferred in 2012 to MCT, which has rebuilt much of the 12-mile stretch. The improvements were dedicated in May.
The trail runs from Main Street in Glen Carbon to Marine Village Park in Marine. In addition to grading, paving, signing and striping the trail, MCT also made critical repairs to all bridges and tunnels. A park and ride lot at Mont Station was also reconstructed. The project was completed by Keller Co. of Glen Carbon.
The $4.2 million trail project was funded by an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Grant, MCT local funds, the Metro East Park and Recreation District and the village of Glen Carbon, which also donated the property.
MCT’s Ridefinders program also saw progress in 2015 by partnering with the St. Louis Regional Chamber, which gave MCT access to hundreds of employers throughout the region. Employers are being challenged to assign workplace coordinators to promote car and van pooling and to designate preferential parking spaces for poolers.