City and NIU bus lines may merge

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — Plans to integrate the HuskieLine and DeKalb’s transit system were discussed during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

The four-part plan would name the city as lead agency for the merged transit systems and would begin with striking an agreement between the city and NIU. After an agreement is made, changes to the HuskieLine and city bussing lines would be implemented, said Public Works Director Tim Holderman.

The expansion would benefit DeKalb because a larger transit system would open the city to more grant opportunities.

“We’re going to need expertise in operating such a system,” Holderman said. “We’re going to need expertise in managing the grants, and we’re going to need to do our planning function we currently do.”

The DeKalb-Sycamore Area Transportation Study, DSATS, is a metropolitan planning organization that’s required for populations of 50,000 or more for federal and state money for transportation and transit services.

Holderman said if an agreement between the city and NIU is made and the consolidation plan follows through, the current policy committee that oversees DSATS would be too small to accommodate the transit system’s growth. He said getting local residents who have expertise in transit systems would be ideal.

Bob Bourne, transit consolidation coordinator and transit system expert, was hired by the city as a part-time employee for a year to assist in the consolidation plan. He said “dynamic communities” tend to grow populations because a large bus system allows residents to get around more cost efficiently.

“All the dynamics are there,” Bourne said. “All the demographics are there; it’s just a matter of putting it all together,” Bourne said.

Proposed changes

The recommendations to the city’s route system under the consolidated system would increase the bus route frequency, allow for more direct routes without overlapping bus routes and would standardize bus operation times and days.

The current “core” bus routes, 6, 7 and the green line, would run 6:30 a.m. to midnight every day of the week.

“That’s a huge increase, particularly with regard to weekends as it applies to our city,” Holderman said.

Sycamore would have a fixed route that runs through the shopping areas and would run because of its lower ridership, but a flex route service would remain available.

The Elburn line would increase to four days a week with two rides in the morning and two in the afternoon.

The city currently operates as a “deviated fixed system,” with the green and blue line operating on a planned route from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. Riders could request stops off the route within a few blocks of the planned routes.

The red line, or the Kishwaukee line, provides rides to and from the college Monday through Friday with three morning and four afternoon routes. The city also offers Dial-a-Ride that operates as a demand response system where riders can request services to and from a point of destination.

The HuskieLine has 11 fixed routes with six running from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Route 7, one of the university’s core lines, runs from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday.

“The HuskieLine is a lot bigger when it comes to fixed routes,” Holderman said.

The current HuskieLine routes would remain in place under the proposed plan but would run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. “The interval between these buses coming is much shorter,” Holderman said, “The overall service is going to be considerably enhanced by consolidating the Huskie and city bus line.”