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Three Connect Transit buses pull away from their stops at the Law and Justice Center in downtown Bloomington in May. The bus system is looking at increasing its fixed-route fare from $1 per ride to $1.25 on July 1. 

NORMAL — Users of Normal Township's senior center are pushing back against a proposed cut of the bus route serving the facility at 600 E. Willow St.

Several seniors and township trustee Sally Pyne defended the route Tuesday at a Connect Transit public hearing, the latest in a series of sessions before the Bloomington-Normal bus system considers on March 26 whether to end the Olive route this summer. Officials also will vote on whether to increase fares.

"Don't do to ARC what you did to my neighborhood," said James Ramholz about the Activity and Recreation Center; he serves on the senior advisory board. "The only route that serves ARC is the Olive. ... You're not making ARC accessible to people who would like to take public transportation."

Officials have trimmed routes over the past several years, often leaving riders with longer walks to a route. To and from ARC, riders would need to walk an extra third of a mile to access the red route — one of two routes scheduled to run more frequently as a result of the changes.

"I believe our members would be able to schedule their visits to ARC around a bus route," said Pyne. "People would adjust their behavior to get ... transportation needs met."

Some speakers at Tuesday's hearing questioned why Connect Transit solicited feedback from current riders before making the changes, saying they should have focused more on people who now don't ride but could in the future.

"You need to make an effort to find out who wants to ride your bus. ... Get your marketing department to reach out and see who else wants to," said Mary Wuhrmann. "This also affects very low-income residents at one end (in the Orlando Northbrook area)."

Ursula Loercher, a career coach at Goodwill in Normal, said the cut could also affect low-income people who need career services by limiting their access to Career Link, Goodwill and the Illinois Department of Employment Security. All of them have locations in north Normal.

"By eliminating this route, you're really affecting a lot of individuals," said City of Bloomington Township Supervisor Deb Skillrud.

The system is looking at increasing its fixed-route fare from $1 per ride to $1.25 on July 1. That's one of a few hikes that may take effect this summer, with more planned through 2022, when the base fare would hit $1.50. 

Further feedback sessions are at noon Friday at Connect Transit, 351 Wylie Drive; 5 p.m. Monday at University Center, 1111 U.S. 51 Business; and 5 p.m. March 25 on the fourth floor at Uptown Station. The March 26 meeting is 3:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Uptown Station.

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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