CHARLESTON — Residents in Coles and Douglas counties are being encouraged to complete surveys to help with plans for improving transportation options in their communities.
The Coles County Regional Planning and Development Commission has been conducting these eight-minute surveys, with one survey being posted at coles-plan.com and the other at douglas-plan.com through December. Community members can obtain paper copies of the surveys at their local city halls or libraries, or by contacting the commission at 217-348-0521.
Samantha McCullough, a planner with the commission, said the survey will help give the organization a better understanding of how area residents utilize their personal vehicles throughout the year and how they get around if they do not have vehicles.
McCullough said they are also asking respondents about their usage of Dial-A-Ride reservation-based buses in both counties and other currently available public transportation, with taxis and rideshare services being included under this category within the surveys.
“Part of our work is to get community feedback,” McCullough said of developing the regional transportation plans. She noted that the surveys also ask questions about how current transportation options can be enhanced. “We are trying to look at what we want to see, as well.”
As part of this information gathering, McCullough said the commission has reached out directly to large employers such Rural King and Sarah Bush Lincoln. She said they also have contacted stakeholders that have their own transportation services, like The Haven homeless shelter’s shuttle bus in Mattoon and Eastern Illinois University’s Panther Express Shuttle for students.
“Part of it is to identify shortcomings across the board,” McCullough said. For example, she said working late night shifts after public transportation options have closed can be a challenge for those who do not have access to vehicles. “What different things could be done to bolster our transportation options here?”
Commission Executive Director Kelly Lockhart said Coles County gets about $1 million in state and federal funding per year to run a transportation service. This funding has made Dial-A-Ride possible, along with the accompanying Zipline service offering designated stops in Charleston and Mattoon.
Lockhart said the survey results will help the commission figure out how to provide more services needed by riders and better promote existing options, particularly Dial-A-Ride.
“I think a big misconception is that Dial-A-Ride is only available to seniors. It’s available to anyone,” Lockhart said. McCullough added that there is no fee for transferring from a Charleston bus to a Mattoon bus, or vice versa, at the LifeSpan Center between the two towns. She said. “You can get from Charleston to Mattoon and back for $1.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation has provided grants, $90,000 for Coles County and $75,000 for Douglas County, to help with conducting the surveys and developing the transportation plans.
After the initial surveys close in late December, the commission plans to distribute student-oriented transportation surveys in the spring for the EIU and Lake Land communities. The Zipline has designated stops on the campuses of both schools.
Lockhart said the draft transportation plans will then be presented at public forums and voted on by their respective county boards, possibly by late 2024. Once approved, he said these plans will help guide local officials in their efforts to improve transportation options and seek related funding.
“Knowing more information about transportation options is a great resource in general but it’s also helpful with grant applications,” Lockhart said.
The community marked Veterans Day 2023 on Saturday with a parade, ceremonies at Peterson Park and the Mattoon Moose Lodge, and performances by…
The 2023 Charleston Middle School Veterans Day Program was held on Friday, Nov. 10.
The commemorations on Saturday in Mattoon included a parade, an American Legion and VFW ceremony at Peterson Park, and a Black Tiger Honor Guard ceremony at the Moose Lodge.
Kim White became the first female veteran to receive the Charleston Middle School Veterans Day Program’s Honored Veteran award.
Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861.