By Bob Balgemann
BELVIDERE – The city of Belvidere once again has come up with $25,000 to help Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) keep buses running through the community.
That was enough money for the service to continue through June 2016, but it may not be sufficient to keep the fleet of buses running until June 2017.
Lisa Brown, marketing and public relations specialist for the district, said it is a policy of the RMTD board that communities outside of Rockford pay their own expenses. Loves Park and Machesney Park have been doing that for many years.
Machesney Park currently pays $162,709 a year for fixed route and para-transit services.
Fixed route service, the same as is provided in Belvidere, means buses follow the same route each day and make the same stops at prescribed times. Para-transit service is door-to-door for qualified riders, who are not physically able to ride regular buses. That level of service isn’t provided in Belvidere.
In Belvidere, RMTD buses make 10 round trips each day between 7:20 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Buses start at the transfer station on Lyford Road, on the far eastern side of Rockford.
Brown explained that the district would accept Belvidere’s $25,000 plus state assistance of 65 percent of the total cost. As for the balance, she said, “We will have to see what we can do with the state Operating Assistance Program and also see who might help out.”
She mentioned Boone County and some of the larger businesses in the county as possibly agreeing to support bus service in the city.
“We could reach out to a few corporations,” she said.
Outgoing county board Chairman Bob Walberg has said he believes bus service is a city responsibility.
The county provides financial support for the on-demand bus service operated by the Boone County Council on Aging. Those 10 county-owned buses pick up riders throughout the county.
Belvidere’s $25,000 commitment has been included in its 2016-17 budget, which goes into effect May 1.
“We will be exploring our options,” Brown said, adding that a decision would have to be made in the next couple of months.
She said ridership in the city has been increasing consistently, though slowly. The last number available was through Dec. 31, when there had been 8,971 riders over a six-month period. That compares to 8,609 the year before.
“We’re optimistic,” she said. “We hear a lot of positive comments about it.”

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