By Marianne Mueller

Reporter

SMTD (Stateline Mass Transit District) bus service has been providing safe, affordable transportation for the past 13 years. Blessings were bestowed upon the lucky day of March 17; St. Patrick’s Day when this valuable community service began.  SMTD stands firm in the motto, “We’re here to get you there.”

Under the direction of SMTD Executive Director Sharon Hecox, a Board of Trustees is comprised of seven members who are appointed by local municipalities in Roscoe and Rockton each have two members and South Beloit has three.  “Every Trustee is active, responsive and shows a great deal of professionalism and expertise,” Hecox lauds.

“We started with four busses which were received under a grant with the help of Congressman Don Manzullo,” Hecox said. “We currently have eight busses in our fleet which operate daily and are anticipating the delivery of one medium duty and two Super Duty buses. All busses are handicap accessible. “The three new busses are needed to provide additional service needs for an increase in riders.”

These were awarded under State of IL. Capital Vehicle Procurement Grant; Grant CVP; through IDOT. “The busses are 100 percent paid for; we receive no local matching funds,” Hecox said. “This will allow us to better service the large volume of students who go to Kids Spot in Roscoe or to the Boys and Girls Club.” 

“We have applied for and had a grant awarded through “Rebuild Illinois” grant recovery. This gives us $225,000 for three more busses, including security systems and back up cameras. “SMTD is one of the few in the state to get full apportionment for public transportation. The districts have received a lesser amount and SMTD is not restricted.”

Service areas covered by SMTD are Roscoe, Rockton, and South Beloit including Roscoe and Rockton Townships. SMTD expands into different towns with a special service for medical needs provided in Rockford, Loves Park, Machesney Park, Beloit and the Town of Beloit. Additionally they go to 173 and Shirland Ave. to hook up with RMTD and BTS.

Prior to COVID SMTD was giving over 2,500 rides per month. “We are still at 40 percent capacity, and we never shut down,” Hecox said. “We wanted to continue with safe, affordable and reliable service to those most at need.”

“Fifteen years ago a question went out to the community if they would support the system,” she said. “Our ridership has massively grown from the original number of 207 rides in the first month.”

“Our start-up money came from both the communities and organizations who generously gave us seed money. Some were municipalities and others were non-profits. We have an Intergovernmental agreement with Rockford Mass Transit for operations.

“Formerly each of these municipalities contracted with an independent contractor to provide transportation for their senior and disabled populations only. With the formation of the Stateline Mass Transit District service was expanded to include anyone in the community,” Hecox said.

In its first year SMTD and the Rockton Lions Club formed a partnership which today equals thousands of shuttle rides during four-day festival.  “We worked with South Beloit in their 100th anniversary and have also participated in the Christmas Walks lighted parades,” Hecox said. 

Rockton Township has been integral in the success by working with the SMTD through IGA for Executive Director Services,” Hecox said. “They have always believed in the Regional necessity for the transportation in the area.

Seniors can feel comfortable getting where they need to go weather shopping or to a Doctor’s appointment. Young adults can grab a ride to work, or anywhere else they may want to go.  Teenagers or middle to grade school age children may be picked up at home and taken to recreational facilities, to a swimming pool, to the library or to any number of activities.  Anyone can be picked up at any specific location.

SMTD changes the lives of students and those who cannot get jobs or may have no transportation because of disabilities; some are able to work and to lead productive lives. Rides are given to anyone who wishes to utilize SMTD’s Demand Response service on a registration basis and must be scheduled. “We have adjusted our hours to help riders who work at earlier times to have enough time to get to work,” Hecox said.

New options in addition to paying an exact cash amount to ride include Token Transit App. Purchase fares using no cash, no cards and no personal contact with the driver. Just download the app from either Google Pay or the Apple App Store. Pay online and send a pass to any mobile phone number to get your  ticket to ride. Specific guidelines and time allowances need to be followed to ride.

To set up a ride or to schedule an appointment calls 877-561-3330, or email info@smdt.biz. More information can also be found on the website at www.smtd.biz, on Facebook or call Sharon directly at 815-624-7788.

“As Executive Director it my duty to have the hand on the pulse of the needs of the community and to make our service adjustments accordingly,” Hecox said. One example Hecox gives is when COVID-19 hit drivers were considered essential workers. “Each driver went above and beyond to make sure that every patron or customer arrived safely to their destinations; whether they went to the bank, grocery store or to a medical appointment.”

“SMTD continues to provide a vital service to the community. The relationship with municipalities, state and Federal who all have a hand in supporting the system has all been very positive for the past 13 years. It has been a learning experience to deliver a successful Mass Transit system. Everyone involved from the drivers, to the staff to the riders who support and lift up the systems growth remain the inspiration behind continued growth moving forward,” Hecox said.

 
 
 
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