Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening

At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, the five-member Bloomington Transit board approved a two-phase reopening plan for public bus service in the city.

The plan sets June 1 as the date when something closer to a normal summer break schedule will resume.

Public buses in Bloomington have still been running during the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders, but using a modified Saturday schedule every day. That reduces the number of service hours by about half compared to normal levels this time of year.

Schedules are posted on BT’s website. Realtime bus locations, when they are running, are available through the mobile app DoubleMap.

During the first phase of BT’s reopening plan, passengers can continue to ride the bus fare-free and board through the rear door. Through the first phase, drivers will continue to receive time-and-a-half hazard pay. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board OKs shift to slightly bigger gear related to COVID-19 reopening”

COVID-19 means Bloomington Transit holds most new routes in limbo, gives hazard pay to drivers, still looks on sunny side

At its meeting on Tuesday night, Bloomington Transit’s board voted unanimously to approve just one of the new routes that had emerged from a study done by a consultant last year.

The collection of newly designed routes, optimized to increase readership, was presented to the public at meetings held last year in November and December.

The one new route approved by the board will be named Route 2 West 17th Street, replacing the old one called Route 2 West 11th Street via Showers Complex. It will start service later this year on Aug. 24.

The reason for the delayed decision on other routes, until some undetermined future time, is the uncertainty caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At whatever point a decision is made on the other routes, implementation is not expected before January 2021. Continue reading “COVID-19 means Bloomington Transit holds most new routes in limbo, gives hazard pay to drivers, still looks on sunny side”

Bloomington Transit board likely to put off decision on new routes, delay implementation until January 2021

At its next scheduled board meeting on April 21, the Bloomington Transit (BT) board is likely to postpone a decision on new routes for the public transit agency, which were originally planned for implementation in August of this year.

The staff’s recommended postponement is based on the impact of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The reason was described in a Friday email message to transit advocates from Zac Huneck, BT’s planning and special projects manager: “We believe introducing major service changes would add an unnecessary burden to our already strained operations.”

Heck’s email message said staff are looking at January 2021 for starting service on the newly designed routes, which are meant to increase ridership by increasing frequency and on-time performance, while maintaining about the same number of service hours. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board likely to put off decision on new routes, delay implementation until January 2021”

Bloomington Transit still on path to April 21 decision on optimized routes for fall, service continues under COVID-19 curtailments, diminished ridership

In January, Bloomington Transit’s board got some good news. The 3.16 million rides taken on fixed route buses in 2019 reflected a 1.75-percent increase over the total from 2018.

It was the first year-to-year increase since 2014, after four straight years of decreases.

But due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s already apparent that the numbers for 2020 almost certainly won’t continue the upward trend. The roughly 180,000 rides taken in March this year reflect just about 60 percent of the the usual ridership, based on the last five years worth of data.

The first half of the month showed fairly normal ridership. But after Indiana University announced that spring break would be extended a week, then cancelled in-person instruction for the rest of the semester, ridership evaporated. Normally Indiana University affiliates—students, faculty and staff—make up about 70 percent of Bloomington Transit (BT) riders.

In the fourth week of March this year, just 8,437 rides were taken on fixed route buses. That’s about 10 percent of the 79,552 rides that were taken last year in the same week. By the end of April, BT ridership could already be down 400,000 rides or more, compared to last year. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit still on path to April 21 decision on optimized routes for fall, service continues under COVID-19 curtailments, diminished ridership”

COVID-19 means fare-free Bloomington buses for now, rear-door entry preferred

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Over the weekend, Bloomington’s public bus agency, announced that its downtown transit center’s indoor waiting area would be closed starting Monday (today), because of concerns about transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The downtown transit center’s closure eliminated one option that passengers had for paying the $1 fare for Bloomington Transit buses—sales of bus tokens at the customer service desk inside the center.

Now, the task of buying fare media for public buses in Bloomington has been eliminated, at least for the time being.

Bloomington transit issued a press release on Monday announcing that fares would be eliminated on fixed route and BT Access buses “until further notice.” BT Access is the bus agency’s para-transit service. Continue reading “COVID-19 means fare-free Bloomington buses for now, rear-door entry preferred”

Indoor waiting area closed at Bloomington downtown transit center due to COVID-19, some buses running on reduced schedule

In a press release issued Sunday evening, the city of Bloomington announced that the indoor waiting room of Bloomington Transit’s downtown center would be closed starting Monday, March 23, until further notice.

As the reason for the closure, the press release cites concerns about transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

In an earlier press release, issued last week, Bloomington’s public transit agency announced that some buses would be running on a reduced schedule, even after the conclusion of Indiana’s spring break.

That’s because Indiana University has closed its dormitories due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and cancelled in-person instruction for the rest of the semester. Students are to be taught using remote platforms. Continue reading “Indoor waiting area closed at Bloomington downtown transit center due to COVID-19, some buses running on reduced schedule”

Bloomington issues COVID-19 update for buses, utilities customer service

Late Friday, the city of Bloomington issued press releases about the way that public bus service  and utilities customer service will be altered starting next week, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most Bloomington Transit buses will continue to run next week on their normal schedule. But the suspension of Indiana University classes means that BT will offer no service on Routes 7, 6-Limited and 9-Limited through March 29.

Routes 6 and 9 will continue operating on the university’s semester break schedules through March 29. BT Access, the agency’s para-transit service, will operate normally.

For water and sewer customers, the city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) customer service office on Miller Drive will be closed to walk-in service. According to the release, customers can still call (812) 349-3930 or send an email message to utilities.cs@bloomington.in.gov Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The after-hours number is (812) 339-1444. Continue reading “Bloomington issues COVID-19 update for buses, utilities customer service”

COVID-19 pushes new Bloomington bus route decision to April, reduced service to match IU remote instruction period

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Bloomington Transit buses head out from the downtown transit center on Saturday, March 14, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

In a press release issued Friday,  Bloomington Transit (BT), the public bus service in Bloomington, announced that its March board meeting is cancelled. That follows the trend towards cancelling government board and commission meetings to reduce the chances of transmitting the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The meeting cancellation will delay by a month a board decision on new routes.

During all Indiana University breaks, including spring break this year (March 15 to 22), BT buses follow a reduced schedule of operation. That’s because more than 70 percent of its riders are university affiliates.

According to Friday’s press release, even after spring break is over this year, some of BT’s university-centric bus routes will see continued reduced service. That’s because of a university decision to teach students remotely for at least two weeks (March 23 to April 5) following spring break. Continue reading “COVID-19 pushes new Bloomington bus route decision to April, reduced service to match IU remote instruction period”

Transit board tees up March 17 vote on new routes for fall, including one that could go outside Bloomington

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Bloomington Transit board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon).

On Tuesday night at its regular monthly meeting, Bloomington Transit’s board got a briefing from general manager Lew May on recommended staff adjustments to proposed new routes.

The board is expected to take a vote on the changes at its March 17 board meeting. The changes are planned to be implemented in August this year. Continue reading “Transit board tees up March 17 vote on new routes for fall, including one that could go outside Bloomington”

Bus ridership up 1.75% over last year as transit board mulls tweaks to proposed new routes, how to court Bloomington city council on key policy changes

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At their Tuesday night meeting, the Bloomington Transit board gets a walk-through from general manager Lew May (blue shirt) of staff-recommended adjustments to a system of route re-configurations that came out of a consultant’s study. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the Bloomington Transit (BT) board delivered a bright spot of news. The 3.16 million rides taken on fixed route buses in 2019 reflect a 1.75-percent increase over the total from 2018.

As BT general manager Lew May noted, it’s the first year-to-year increase since 2014, after four straight years of decreases. Continue reading “Bus ridership up 1.75% over last year as transit board mulls tweaks to proposed new routes, how to court Bloomington city council on key policy changes”