Bloomington’s city council OKs electric bus appropriation, money for county fire protection

A special meeting of Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday wrapped up in about a half hour, as the council dispatched the two agenda items without controversy.

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Bloomington Transit’s general manager, Lew May, speaks to the council’s land use committee on Wednesday (Aug. 28) (Dave Askins/Beacon)

One item was to approve a $1.13 million appropriation in this year’s (2019) budget for the grants won by Bloomington Transit to pay for a battery electric bus and two smaller vehicles. The second item was to give the city council’s approval for the allocation of about $390,000 of countywide local income tax revenue to fire departments in the county.

The meeting was extended a couple minutes, because the Bloomington Transit appropriation ordinance had not been properly introduced for its second reading, before the council voted on it. The council wound up suspending its rules so that the item could be introduced, read aloud, and voted on a second time. That process required three additional votes—one voice voice and two roll calls. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council OKs electric bus appropriation, money for county fire protection”

City council mulls future local funding for Bloomington Transit investments, as 2020 budget relies on feds for electric buses, shared-ride microtransit

Possible federal grants are a key part of the Bloomington Transit 2020 budget presented to the city council on Tuesday by the public transit agency’s general manager, Lew May. Councilmembers appeared receptive to the planned $4 million in capital expenditures to acquire four more alternative-fuel buses.

BT is also applying for a federal grant to fund a shared-ride microtransit pilot program to take up the slack on certain routes after fixed-route service ends for the day.

Council president Dave Rollo suggested looking beyond traditional federal funding sources. Among the local funding sources he suggested were tax increment finance funds and local income taxes.

A budget increase of $87,000 to cover an outside contract to add a security officer at BT’s downtown transit station drew scrutiny from councilmembers.

As it did on Monday, which was the first day of a week’s worth of departmental budget hearings, climate change drove a lot of the council’s commentary. Councilmembers wanted BT to consider adding solar panels to a new roof for the BT facility on Grimes Lane, which is currently budgeted for $363,250.

Before the unanimous straw vote was taken by councilmembers in support of the proposed budget, Dave Rollo said, “We are running out of time. And we need to direct capital to Bloomington Transit, if we’re going to be serious about climate—it’s got to be part of the strategy.”

The council’s vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 10 after getting a first reading on Sept. 25.

Continue reading “City council mulls future local funding for Bloomington Transit investments, as 2020 budget relies on feds for electric buses, shared-ride microtransit”

$900K worth of awards for Bloomington Transit buses to get first reading in front of city council

A total of $902,401 in competitive federal grants recently won by Bloomington Transit (BT) will allow the local public transit agency to buy three new buses—two for its BT Access para-transit service and one for the fixed-route service.

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A Bloomington Transit bus (diesel) navigates its way south under the railroad bridge at 10th Street.

All the buses are replacement vehicles, part of a regular program to keep the fleet up to date.

The new fixed-route bus will be a battery-electric vehicle, one of two that Bloomington Transit is now planning to order. The first battery-electric bus was already in the 2019 budget.

The electric buses are expected to arrive in late 2020 or early 2021.

A press release issued by the city about the federal grant awards touted the benefits of electric buses. They include: cost-effectiveness; zero direct carbon emissions; reduction in dependency on fossil fuels; and quietness of operation.

On Wednesday (Aug. 14, 2019) the city council is scheduled to get a first reading of the necessary appropriations ordinance. That ordinance totals $1,128,000 because of the 20-percent local share that BT will need to contribute towards the cost of the buses. Continue reading “$900K worth of awards for Bloomington Transit buses to get first reading in front of city council”

Beacon Benchmark: #TrashTagChallenge just means busing somebody else’s table

The Beacon is traveling around Bloomington by public bus this summer, as a way of trying out Bloomington Transit’s new smartphone passes.

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A grabber-claw device similar to the one used by The Beacon to clean up the alley connecting 6th Street with Kirkwood just west of Washington Street.

I made one trip on Route 3 to complete an errand to Bloomington Hardware. There I purchased a gadget for grabbing things at a distance. The business end is a kind of claw that closes when you squeeze the lever in the handle.

The three-foot long device was planned for picking up trash in the downtown alley that runs north-south between 6th Street and Kirkwood Avenue. Continue reading “Beacon Benchmark: #TrashTagChallenge just means busing somebody else’s table”

Bloomington bus riders to get smartphone ticket option starting July 1

Riding the public bus in Bloomington will get a bit easier starting July 1.

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On July 1, 2019, Bloomington Transit will be rolling out the Token Transit app. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

For most Bloomington residents, boarding the local public bus is already easy. It just means flashing the right ID card at the Bloomington Transit driver. About three quarters of all BT riders can board the bus because they have the right ID card—one that proves affiliation with Indiana University as staff or student.

Those rides are taken at no cost to the rider—but the university pays about $1.1 million a year to cover those trips.

The convenience for IU affiliates is not purely financial—it’s also the option to board a public bus with an object they nearly always have handy.

Starting July 1, rank-and-file residents who aren’t affiliated with the university will enjoy a similar kind of convenience, if they generally carry a smartphone. Continue reading “Bloomington bus riders to get smartphone ticket option starting July 1”