The Buses Again

A vote on the fate of the Commuter Shuttle is two years away.  Is participation in the county public transportation circulator the hot topic now?

On Tuesday council will once again take up the Local Circulator Study Task Force findings regarding participating in the wider area public transportation network should be undertaken at this time.

So far cost estimates for the current shuttle bus services have been something of a WAG, running from $48k/year to $100K/year for the new shuttles, and running from and additional $69k to $92k for also participating in the local circulator.  That’s money not in the current budget.

The first question council will have to come to grips with is what are they talking about voting on the following week?  As it reads, the Active D motion seems to be only whether council will accept ” the findings of the Circulator Study Task Force.”  But this item was shelved at Commissioner Waldack’s request two weeks ago so he could run some numbers, meet with staff to mull things over, and see what the potential cost would be to the community for a hybrid system.

From the green sheets:

Commissioner Waldack met with staff to discuss the concept of operating an integrated transit system. The system would include the Grove Commuter Shuttle, a circulator and a reverse commute component. The Shuttle would continue to operate in its current form. Between the morning and evening Shuttle operations, the Village buses would operate a circulator system with routes similar to the routes discussed by the Circulator Task Force. If possible, the system would include a reverse commute component serving the large employment centers in the north portion of the Village. If the grant funding sources available for the operating deficit for Circulator (RTA ICE grant of 50% of the operating deficit and DuPage County grant of 37.5% of the operating deficit) could be applied to an integrated transit system, it may be possible for the Village to operate an integrated system with  expanded services at the same or similar net cost to the Village as the existing Grove Commuter Shuttle. For illustrative purposes only, staff has prepared the attached cost comparison between the Grove Commuter  shuttle and a conceptual integrated transit system. Since this is a concept only at this time, additional research and analysis would have to be  completed. If the Council would like to explore the creation of an integrated system, staff  recommends that this issue be discussed in more detail during the 2009 strategic and long range financial planning sessions tentatively scheduled for this summer. Based on preliminary discussions with DuPage Mayors & Managers Conference, they may wish to participate in the analysis of an integrated transit system.

Consolidating and providing multiple uses for our shuttle system is not a bad idea.  The reverse commute is something that has benefit for our business community attracting companies to our area by providing a way for employees to get here by train, and take a bus to work at the big office centers on the north side of the village.

Click for larger image.

Click for larger image.

The attached cost estimates, again just guesses at this point, show that, given additional grant opportunities that would become available, the total cost could actually go down a little.

Potential deal killers are the grant components.  The county will only guarantee one year of grants, and after that we may be left responsible for those 37.5% as additional costs.  It’s been documented here and elsewhere that county has no hesitation using transportation funds to plug budget leaks that are not transportation related.  It may be fiscal folly to assume this instance being different.

Staff has recommended accepting the findings of the Circulator Task Force Committee, and backing off on participating in a larger circulator at this time.  “If the Council decides to discuss the creation of an integrated transit system as noted above, this information would be provided to DuPage Mayors & Managers Conference.”

Council will probably go with staff recommendations on this one, and not make any commitment to going any further at this time.  With all of the budget cut and trimming so far, wild card variable expenses are being avoided where they can, and once in, it would be hard to get back out of this one.

The complete green sheets with finance projections proposd routes, and Task Force Study Committee meeting minutes can be found here.

The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference Transportation information can be found here.

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