In late September, the Connect Transit board announced the approval to generate electric buses in the area.
The lifespan of a typical diesel bus is about 14 years, the current diesel buses in Normal are about 16-years old causing this transition between diesel and electric to be of an urgent and important need to Connect Transit.
This change will replace and filter out the current diesel buses over a period of time.
“Connect [Transit] was lucky enough that we received two grants of about $7.5 million. We are going to leverage that with state funding as well. That will allow us to purchase 12 electric buses and infrastructure to power those buses,” Chief Operating Officer Martin Glaze said.
In addition to the electric buses are solar panels to help with the daily charging needed for each vehicle, located on the company’s maintenance facility in Normal.
However, a major concern for some passengers and the company is the location of the current transfer station on Front Street in Downtown Bloomington. The company has around seven buses that pull up to allow passengers to switch and transfer buses to complete their full trip.
As a result, the company is looking into creating a permanent transfer station located along Front Street to cater to those who pass through that point every day, especially in difficult weather conditions.
Glaze notes that zero local funds will be utilized for the electric buses and the transfer center.
He also mentioned that a part of the funds from the grant will go towards creating this transfer station for the 18,000 trips made to Downtown Bloomington every day.
“We have another $7 million that we’re able to put from those bus grants towards the Downtown transfer center. In a couple weeks, we’ll kick off a feasibility study,” Glaze said.
This feasibility study will include the company in an effort to scout a piece of land that will work within the routes and makes the most sense for meeting the community's wants when it comes to amenities.
This study will also provide more specific details for the company going forward, such as the affordability of the location, the cost to run and operate the transfer center and any other partnerships or funding sources to help with the building of the center.
After the transition of the electric buses and the addition of the transfer center, current passengers can expect a large improvement from the current quality at hand.
“I think the experience for all of our riders will be much better. They’ll be able to make their transfers easier," Glaze said. "They won’t have to cross the street to do so, [the stops] will all be in one centralized location."
With a new and improved future for Connect Transit, Glaze believes that these changes will bring high hopes for both the company and for the passengers.
“I think you’re going to see ridership go up. I think as you improve amenities, such as bus shelters and stops, you invite more people to try [Connect] Transit,” Glaze added.