MARION — Rides Mass Transit District has seen an increase in ridership this year.
According to the RMTD website, the federally-funded nonprofit came into being approximately 40 years ago when a major bus line stopped providing public transportation for Pope and Hardin counties.
In April of 1977, Rides (then standing for Rural Initiative Development of Effective Services) began operations with four 15-passenger vans to primarily bring people to nutrition centers and deliver meals to the homebound.
Decades later, RMTD has evolved into a full-service public transportation service with buses that traverse 18 counties in the region, including stops in places like St. Louis, Paducah, Evansville and Cape Girardeau.
In Williamson County alone, ridership on RMTD buses increased 7.1 percent in fiscal year 2017, which ended July 31.
During that time, over 185,200 riders utilized this form of public transportation throughout Williamson County, up from 680,000 riders in fiscal year 2016. The increase in ridership, officials say, can be attributed to awareness, access, availability and route structure.
"We're responsive to the public and wanted to make it even more accommodating for people to get around Williamson County with more direct routes and fewer transfers, and the public has responded," said RMTD operations manager Adam Lach.
While reservations are suggested 24 hours ahead of time, pick-ups can sometimes be scheduled at a rider’s residence with one hour advance notice, if space permits. This is good news for people who don’t own a car, or even for those whose car may be in the shop.
The service has scheduled stops at the Amtrak station in Carbondale, SIU Student Center, in front of JCPenney at University Mall, at Man-Tra-Con in the Illinois Star Centre Mall in Marion, Veterans Airport in Marion, Southeast Illinois College or many other places between Harrisburg and Carbondale.
There is even a route dedicated to transporting riders to John A. Logan College campus.
For individuals with mobility issues, RMDT has a mobility professional to assist with any transportation needs.
“We appreciate being able to provide the service to the residents in Williamson County. It’s an area that is seeing growth and expansion, and we’re happy to play a part in getting the public to where they want to be,” Latch said.
Latch said RMTD provides affordable, safe and accessible public transportation for all residents of the communities served by promoting independence, self-sufficiency and economic opportunity.
Current fares for existing route services are $2 for adults and $0.75 for children. Fares for senior citizens, discount tickets available in books of 10, and 30-day transit passes are also available.
RMTD has 15 offices all over the southeastern region of the state, with a new office opening in Harrisburg at the end of March. The service is partly funded by Delta Regional Authority, a congressional group that focuses on economic development investments.
For more information about RMTD call 618-253-8761, or visit their website at www.ridesmtd.com.