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Thursday, March 22, 2012 07:24 am

Bike racks on buses delayed

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A transit bus bike rack in use in California.
PHOTO BY BUCHANAN-HERMIT

Public buses in Springfield will someday have bike racks, Springfield Mass Transit District says, but not until they finish building their new facility.

Requests to place bike racks on buses were among the most frequent responses to a spring 2010 survey conducted by the Leadership Springfield program of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

The initiative to place bike racks on SMTD buses began in September 2010, but due to the construction of a new SMTD transportation facility, which will house SMTD buses and provide space for maintenance work to the buses, the bike rack plans have been delayed.

SMTD is hopeful that by late July or early August Springfield bicyclists will have an opportunity to put their bicycles on SMTD buses.

“When we were under construction with our new maintenance facility we kept shrinking the facility that we had to operate in,” said Linda Tisdale, managing director of SMTD.  “We demolished the old transportation facility and about one third of our storage garage, which resulted in our operations continually shifting around, but we are now coming to the end of the construction phase.”

Tisdale said that in 2010 she applied and was approved for a federal Job Access Reverse Commute Transportation Program grant, which will fund the bike racks plan.

“We went through the grant program and put it into contract form. The money is sitting there waiting for us,” Tisdale said. “Unfortunately, at that same time, we were under a large construction process.”

Shoun Reese, the grants and procurement manager of SMTD, said the construction process included a variety of new facilities for SMTD buses at 928 Ninth St. They include a storage garage, a maintenance building and an administrative section for training bus drivers and storing bus parts.

Reese said the delay in putting the bike racks on the buses is due to the construction of new facilities being built on the original SMTD property, which required construction to move in phases.  

“That was part of the reason for the delay. We couldn’t stop our operations, so we were only able to build on as we demolished an older section of our facility,” Reese said. “We were working in the old building as the new building was being constructed, and then when one part of the new building was created another part of the old building was demolished.”

Reese said that SMTD received $45,600 for bike racks from the Federal Transit Administration in September 2010, with the Illinois Department of Transportation providing an additional $11,400.

Tisdale said that JARC grant and IDOT funds will provide for 56 SMTD buses to have bike racks placed on them.

Tisdale said the procurement process, a process of acquiring goods or services, is the next step in moving toward placing bike racks on SMTD buses.

“The procurement process for the racks includes both the purchase and the installation of the bike racks. This means that we (SMTD) have to make the bus fleet available to the installer and provide a space on-site for them to install the racks,” Tisdale said.

Reese said it is a cost-saving maneuver for SMTD to provide the on-site location for placing the bike racks on the buses, instead of allowing an outside organization to handle the task.

 The bidding process to put the bike racks on the buses will begin in June. Reese said it “usually takes 30 to 45 days” for an organization to be selected to do this process. Then, the selected organization will have to order the bike racks and wait for them to be shipped back. When the bike racks arrive, the vendor will work with SMTD to put the bike racks on without interrupting SMTD bus services.

Tisdale said she hopes that the bike racks can be placed on the buses by the end of the summer.

“Sometime in late July or early August they should start the installation, that’s my guess. It depends on the bike rack suppliers and their manufacturing schedules,” Tisdale said.

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com.

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