DeKalb City Council OKs new transit routes, fare system

July 24, 2018

DeKALB – The city’s bus system is about to shift gears and, hopefully, get a bit more rider-friendly.

None of the 35 or so residents who attended the DeKalb City Council meeting Monday offered opposition to reconfigured, combined bus lines that will begin operations under a new fare structure in DeKalb and Sycamore in a couple of weeks.

The council voted, 8-0, to approve new bus line routes in a collaborative merger of several stakeholders.

The changes are the result of monthslong discussions among officials with both DeKalb and Sycamore, staff from the Voluntary Action Center, Northern Illinois University, Transdev and recommendations from a 2017 DeKalb Sycamore Area transportation study.

Fifth Ward Alderwoman Kate Noreiko was pleased with the collaborative effort.

“I think this is a great example of intergovernmental cooperation,” she said. “I’m sure it wasn’t always easy and pleasant, but you got through it all, and I applaud your efforts.”

The study found riders are dissatisfied with late departure and arrival times, and a lack of weekend service. Tim Holdeman, public works director, said rail lines running through DeKalb are the chief culprit affecting bus punctuality.

Route and fare changes begin

Aug. 20, and weekend services on some lines begin Sept. 1.

Most changed is the Green Line, which will be renamed Route 18 and is being altered, officials said, to increase on-time performance and reliability. Currently, the Green Line is a circular route that serves DeKalb.

The southern end of the Green Line, which serves Seventh Street, Taylor Street, NIU and downtown DeKalb will be served by Huskie Routes 16 and 17 (previously named Routes 6 and 7). Additionally, there now will be bus service along West Dresser Road and DeKalb High School. Weekend bus service on the routes also begins in September.

Huskie Routes 16 and 17 will not only replace bus service previously provided by the VAC Green Line south of Sycamore Road, but riders also will be able to remain on the same bus to ride both routes. The route number will automatically change at the NIU Holmes Student Center bus stop. Bus service will operate seven days a week and 362 days a year.

The VAC Blue Line and VAC Kishwaukee College Red Line are only minimally changed. Beginning

Sept. 1, the Blue Line, which serves Sycamore, will be renamed Route 21 and will include weekend service. The Kishwaukee Red Line will be renamed Route 24.

Paratransit fares will be reduced from $1.50 to $1, and although senior citizens and people with disabilities previously have ridden for free, they’ll be charged 25 cents a trip. Rides on VAC lines and Huskie lines will be

50 cents for adults, whereas Huskie lines used to cost $1. Students in kindergarten through high school now will pay 25 cents a ride, whereas VAC previously charged them 50 cents. NIU students, staff and faculty with a valid NIU OneCard ride free. VAC’s former fare was the standard rate. On the Huskie Line, students, faculty and staff already rode free with the NIU OneCard.

“Consolidation creates a one-fare structure,” Holdeman said.

The new system also means free transfers between VAC and Huskie routes and also will connect to the DeKalb County Health Department from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

City staff will ride all buses during the first few days of the transition to assist passengers. The city plans to hire a permanent transit manager in fiscal 2019, Holdeman said.

The council also voted, 8-0, to purchase three new super-medium duty buses through the state’s Consolidated Vehicle Program Contract for $305,000. Two of the three vehicles are to replace vehicles that are no longer serviceable, and one bus is for future expansion of services.

Transportation planner Brian Dickson said federal grants will pay for the vehicles, with no effect on the city’s budget.

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