Bus ridership has nearly doubled in Freeport and Stephenson County in the first six months following service expansion.
Kevin Cooley, the program compliance oversight monitor at the Freeport senior center, is confident ridership will continue to increase.
“We’re already well over 30,000 rides--we’ve already pretty much completed everything we did last fiscal year and we have the whole year to go,” Cooley said.
The on-demand service provides door-to-door operations as well as “door-through-door” service. According to Cooley, people with disabilities will be better accommodated by providing a door-through-door service.
“The people involved really want to see more people in more places, with more smiles on more faces,” Cooley said.
Sue Lambert, director of the Senior Resource Center in Freeport, has also been pleased by the results after the expansion.
“It has been a really exciting time at the senior center to watch the program take off like it has,” Lambert said.
According to Lambert, senior citizen ridership has quadrupled since the expansion of the bus line and is catering to an even larger segment of the general public in Stephenson County. The service provides easy travel to any location in the area at a modest fee.
“From my perspective, boy, have we really accomplished something here,” Lambert said. “We’re providing that same sense of customer service to everyone countywide.”
The expansion of the bus line, known as Pretzel City Area Transit, is the result of a partnership between Pretzel City Transit and the Senior Resource Center.
“The city was able to service, for the past couple of years, about 39,000 riders in the City of Freeport,” Cooley said. “With a partnership we’ll hit 65,000 to 70,000 rides at least.”
A flexible operation schedule is among the changes after the expansion. According to Lambert, the bus line was previously using a half-day schedule and was not able to accommodate the needs of senior citizens.
“The primary goal is to help people to access services that they need within the county,” Lambert said. “We’ve been able to do that in a big way, and it’s a benefit to all of the citizens in Stephenson County that don’t have other modes of transportation.”
For those looking to travel within Freeport, a $3 one-way ride is available. Travelers may ride anywhere in Stephenson County for $6 one way, but reservations are recommended at least two days in advance.
Seniors may ride for free with an optional donation fee. More information is available by calling 815-235-RIDE.