TransVAC riders pleased with service, would like more weekend routes

TransVAC riders pleased with service, would like more weekend routes
By DREW ZIMMERMAN

DeKALB – Sheila Wilson of DeKalb has relied on the Green Line bus route almost every day for the past month – for work, running errands or visiting her mother in a DeKalb County nursing home.

So far, she said she has been very happy with the service provided by the Voluntary Action Center’s TransVAC service.

“I was in Cortland for a couple of years, and I wished there was public transportation over there,” Wilson said.

Although the DeKalb Sycamore Area Transportation Study has been working to create a plan to integrate TransVAC’s Green and Blue lines with Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Line, several riders offered positive reactions to public transportation in DeKalb while riding the Green Line on Monday morning.

Mike Crowley said he does not use the buses that often, since he usually rides a bicycle, but his experience with the Green Line has been good.

“It gets me home on time,” Crowley said. “As far as I know, it’s all good, and I’ve never had problems with it.”

The transit consolidation plan was discussed during the DeKalb City Council’s Feb. 26 Committee of the Whole meeting, during which city officials claimed the consolidation could significantly increase the amount of state and federal grant funding available for the city’s public transit.

NIU’s Huskie Line currently receives no state or federal funding toward capital or operating expenses, while TransVAC receives some grant funding that is combined with private donations raised by VAC.

Criticisms are few and far between, said Paul LaLonde, Voluntary Action Center assistant executive director, but weekend access has been a problem, since only the Huskie Line operates on Saturday and Sunday.

“Generally, people are very happy that the service is there, but that’s not to say that the service is perfect,” LaLonde said. “We wouldn’t be here if it was.”

Angel Padilla of DeKalb said if TransVAC lines ran on the weekend, it would be a big help for him, but he has been pleased with the service. Padilla mentioned one incident in which he was trying to get on a Sycamore Blue Line bus at night, but the driver did not see him until he pulled away, so he circled the block and picked Padilla up.

“I’d like another Blue Line bus that could run after a certain time,” Padilla said.

Shanelle Simoneaux of DeKalb rides the bus periodically and said she thinks the Green Line is fine the way it is, but if service could be extended to the weekend, it would be perfect for her.

LaLonde said consolidation has been a long time coming and is thankful for DSATS, the cities of DeKalb and Sycamore and NIU for collaborating.

“As the demands of the people are changing, we are trying to change with that and take a more proactive approach,” LaLonde said. “Overall, the end goal of this project is to create a public transit system that not only serves the city of DeKalb or student ridership, but can meet all needs simultaneously.”

LaLonde said the most frequent complaint he hears is how long certain routes take, particularly in recent years because of growing demands.

“What was able to be done in 45 minutes pretty easily is now taking over an hour, based on the sheer ridership that we have seen,” LaLonde said. “Time is definitely one of the biggest challenges.”

One limitation Huskie Line has is that it primarily stays on fixed routes and has limited service when school is not in session. TransVAC, on the other hand, offers deviated route services and demand response.

To aid in the establishment of the consolidation program, the city has hired transit consultant Bob Bourne to act as a transit consolidation coordinator for a year.

Current Huskie Line routes are available on the Huskie Line website, and TransVAC schedules are available on the VAC website.