October 21, 2016
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Connect Transit Faces Possible Shutdown

Connect Transit in Normal, IL, may be forced to suspend service at the end of December if the state does not resume funding that accounts for 65 percent of its operating expenses through the Downstate Public Transportation Fund.

“Citizens in downstate Illinois rely heavily on public transportation to travel to work, school, healthcare and shopping. Forcing bus systems to shut down due to nonpayment of state operating assistance will be devastating to communities throughout the state,” said Andrew Johnson, general manager of Connect Transit and president of the Illinois Public Transportation Association. “We are counting on the state of Illinois to address this crisis before it is too late and ensure that its citizens who take millions of trips each year will continue to be able to count on public transportation to get them where they need to go.”

Melissa Chrisman, marketing and business development manager, said the agency is hosting a town hall meeting Oct. 27 where community members can share feedback about the future of the system’s services due to the state funding issues.

According to state law, Illinois provides 65 percent reimbursement of operating expenses for Connect Transit and other downstate public transportation systems. The state is bound by law to provide this funding as a continuing appropriation whether the legislature appropriates sufficient funds or not.

The state makes operating assistance payments on a quarterly basis through the Downstate Public Transportation Fund, funded through transfers from the General Revenue Fund. The public transportation fund has a current balance of $47,000.

However, the state has not made a transfer since June 2016; the comptroller’s office is not sure if a transfer will be made before December and the state has made no commitment regarding a transfer in December. Connect Transit and other downstate systems have received no state operating assistance payments in Fiscal Year 2017, which began July 1.

Connect Transit is owed about $5 million in state payments, which constitutes a third of its annual operating budget. In the absence of any state payments, the agency has enough cash on hand to continue operations through December 2016. However, after that the system would likely have to suspend service until the state payments resume, and other downstate systems might have to suspend their service sooner than that.

The agency provides an average of 8,000 rides per day. During any suspension of service, up to 150 agency employees could be laid off.
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