McDONOUGH COUNTY — The transit authority has hired drivers for its Go West system but still needs additional drivers, according to Go West representative Ketra Russell.
The McDonough County Public Transportation authority has “at least two full-time positions to fill, so the more people we can get through our process, hopefully we can get some people some full-time employment,” she said. The wage is $11.58 per hour for incoming drivers and includes paid training.
She said the hiring process can be a lengthy one, and because of this the agency is having difficulty getting people to staff the Saturday and Sunday routes.
In the meantime, Durham is paying its current staff overtime to try to cover the routes.
Hiring qualified drivers involves among other things personality testing and training for school bus certifications. If a driver has CDL licensing in more than one county or state, the process can take longer because their driving records have to be gathered.
In a case where someone comes in with no training or CDL, “It takes about two months to get someone truly behind the wheel. And sometimes in that case, someone has found another job during that time,” she said.

Demand Response update
Transit Director Nathan Cobb spoke about the ending of the Bridgeway contract on June 30. Bridgeway had provided for Demand Response transportation, which typically serves people with disabilities and the elderly. Durham is currently acting as Demand Response provider.
“(We) finally got that contract all worked out on Aug. 26,” he said. “Durham transitioned into the Demand Response, hiring the drivers that were still around - which was six drivers - and things are going well.”
Durham is hoping to fill one part-time, out-of-county position that’s open and one full-time route bus driver position available. A mechanic is also still needed; in the meantime, Durham has approved overtime for the other mechanics maintaining the Demand Response vehicles.
Since Aug. 15, ridership has picked up on one of the routes servicing Bridgeway. He hopes to have a second route for Bridgeway once a second driver is hired. “That will increase a lot of the ridership and get some of the matching funds coming back in for that,” he said.

August ridership
Overall, the system provided 75,540 rides. Ridership has picked up since Western Illinois University session began on Aug. 21. Demand Response ridership is 1,085, “still considerably lower” than June, Cobb said, but doubled from July.
Out-of-county ridership numbers for Demand Response were low in August. “They kind of stopped scheduling those back in June because we were uncertain what kind of staffing that we’d have,” he said.
Go West municipal routes saw the most ridership northwest of Macomb. Late night routes were down compared to last year. Overall, August’s numbers are down 13 percent compared to last year.

State, federal payments
The city has received all its FY 17 payments and is caught up. Go West and Bridgeway have been reimbursed in full and on time.
“A lot of the systems across the state are still waiting for their payments…They were able to get a lot of the rural and smaller agencies paid up as quickly as they could,” Cobb said. “There was supposed to be a change in the way that they’re transferring money. It’s supposed to bypass the Comptroller, but from what I’ve heard they haven’t actually deposited their FY 18 payments yet. They’re waiting until the school funding issue was resolved.”
He said the process change was supposed to involve four deposits per month of sales tax revenue directly into the transportation account, bypassing the Comptroller and in theory ending delayed payments.
However, the state has been slower than normal this year in getting out contracts for 5311 (federal funding) grantees. This will delay advance payments the city would normally receive. He said reserves should be sufficient for the next few months.
“Hopefully by that time we’ll have the contracts and be able to submit. They’re not allowing us to submit any advance payments until those contracts are in place. It’s quite a lengthy process now with the GATA stuff that’s been incorporated,” he said in reference to the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act.
The city did receive notice of full federal funding, he said. Hancock County’s funding has been partly cut, he said.
The bus shelter and new bus capital projects are ready to move forward, but the agency will have to re-submit all their plans from the beginning. He said he will be meeting again with the engineer to talk about previously-approved locations for the shelters to see if they are still viable. Then they will be submitting pre-bid approval to IDOT.
There is about $2 million available for bus purchase, but the original company is no longer making the buses MCPT wants. They will have to start over. “Anything we do now is going to probably be a year and a half to two years out getting vehicles,” he said. “But I think we need to get that started.”
Cobb said he will be in Springfield Sept. 18 to speak with IDOT officials to find out what steps to take and what procurements are available. He expressed interest in the Gillig line, which produces 30 foot buses.
The city is expected to receive medium-duty minivan through the CVP program sometime this fall. The agency is planning on decommissioning three of its older minivans from its fleet and selling them at auction.

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