Area approved for mass transit

By Andy McMurray

On June 22 Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed an amendment to the Downstate Public Transportation Act which promises to bring the DeKalb area $1.4 million for a mass transportation system.

The money was appropriated through legislation that passed the Illinois General Assembly with yes votes from both sides of the partisan aisle.

A genuine, area-wide mass transit system does not exist in between DeKalb and Sycamore, said Sycamore City Manager Bill Nicklas. The city of DeKalb does, however, benefit from the Huskie Bus Line.

The Huskie buses make stops all over campus and several locations throughout DeKalb.

Still, the Huskie Bus Line is not the only way to get around the area.

“The Voluntary Action Center is providing a paratransit service, meaning smaller buses and vans, taking people by appointment to their destinations,” Nicklas said. “[There is] also the six route, or the green line, that goes into some of the neighborhoods.”

A few years ago DeKalb lost some federal mass transit funding because the population of the area qualified it to join a Metropolitan Planning Area, said 70th District State Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley).

These planning areas are urbanized areas of 50,000 or more inhabitants that have been organized into mass transit districts under the guidelines provided in the Local Mass Transit District Act.

DeKalb combined with Cortland and Sycamore to form this planning area, which will provide mass transportation for the area, he said.

Most of the metropolitan planning area lies within the city of DeKalb, Pritchard said. Thus, DeKalb has been the lead agency as far as planning and preparation

The state funds coming to the area will replace the lost federal funds.

“[The money] would have been lost forever; in fact it has been lost for the last two years,” Pritchard said.

Blagojevich lauded the appropriation in a June 22 press release as a solution to continually rising gas prices.

“As gas prices continue to increase, [citizens] need a public transit system that provides them with affordable alternatives to get to work and school,” Blagojevich said in the release.

Pritchard said he planned on continuing to seek ways to relieve consumers of the pinch high gas prices have put on their wallets.

Legislation pursuing alternative fuel vehicles and the continued support of ethanol products has recently passed the Illinois House, Pritchard said.

In the future, Pritchard will work toward getting Illinois to adopt a 20-percent ethanol mix standard, much like the state of Minnesota.