More Southern Illinoisans are taking the bus


Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

SALINE COUNTY, Ill. - When gas prices go up and the economy is down, more people take advantage of public transportation, especially in rural areas where it is available.

Rides Mass Transit District in Harrisburg has seen their numbers rise so much in the last few years, they are expanding their services.

On Tuesday, ground was broken at the location of their future Maintenance and Operations Center.

They are turning their existing location into a park-and-ride bus station.

Rides CEO Bill Jung says his transit operation offers passengers a better quality of life.

"A lot of people that need mechanisms to get to dialysis, or transportation to stay in their home longer or to be able to get around to services that are further and further away due to consolidation, those are important parts of what we do," said Jung.

Bus driver Anthony Glenn drives the loop a couple times a day, making scheduled stops along the way.

He picked up Alfred Chapman after an appointment at the clinic.

For the last ten years, he has paid the $15.00/month for unlimited rides.

"50 cents day, so you can't beat it," said Chapman.

Melanee Browning is a regular, too.

"Five days a week, Monday through Friday," said Browning.

The transit system picks her up from her home, more than 20 miles away, so she can get into town for errands and appointments.

"I live in New Haven and I come into Eldorado to Egyptian Heath, every day," said Browning.

She says her rural lifestyle is made more convenient by public transit, and she is not the only one.

Rides transports almost 200,000 people in a close to 7,500 square-mile area that covers 18 counties.

Their new location will be completed next August.