Federal funding for intercity bus programs is available to states under Section 5311(f) of the Federal Transit Act. The act requires 15 percent of all federal funding for public transportation in non-urbanized areas be earmarked for intercity bus transportation, unless the state’s governor certifies that the intercity bus service needs are adequately met. The Illinois Department of Transportation has commissioned this study to assess whether intercity bus needs are being met in the State of Illinois, and if not, to develop a strategy for utilization of federal funds to enhance Illinois rural population’s intercity bus service.
To fulfill this study’s objectives, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC):
- Reviewed FTA requirements and existing IDOT Intercity Bus policies.
- Surveyed the experiences of other states; identified and surveyed common carriers that provide scheduled service in the state.
- Analyzed the current supply, demand, and needs of intercity passenger service.
- Identified possible intercity bus service options and enhancements.
Upon reviewing federal and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) intercity bus policies and regulations, the research team obtained experiences from other states regarding their strategies to meet federal and state-level requirements. Feedback from the states showed a variety of approaches to the funding requirements, even in Illinois’ neighboring states. Some states focused exclusively on intercity bus; others considered the bus system’s role in the statewide transportation network. Most states that subsidize service provide operating support; sometimes as a pilot project, sometimes not. Other states take a more capital focused approach. None of the surveyed states exactly matches Illinois’ combination of a relatively evenly distributed rural population, several medium-sized cities and one primate metro area. However, in consideration of the ways other states approach the funding requirement, certain observations may be relevant for Illinois. These observations are offered as recommendations later in this executive summary.
The research team compiled an inventory of community transportation providers in Illinois, including commercial bus companies, rail, local feeder services, and air carriers. A telephone survey identified the current 5311 recipients that provide countywide transit open to the general population and connect to other modes of transportation. The survey indicated that the contacted organizations were meeting the basic transportation needs of Illinois’ rural population. However, public transportation in rural areas is not normally available on holidays, weekends and evenings.
Most survey respondents indicated that existing service was underutilized, with the most prevalent reason being lack of funds.
The supply, demand and needs analyses identified a considerable level of intercity transportation service in Illinois. However, the survey confirmed that as in much of the rest of the country, rural areas are either under-served or un-served by intercity transportation. All of Illinois’ metropolitan areas have intercity common carrier service, either through intercity bus, Amtrak, or both. Air service, available in most metro areas, wasn’t considered as a possible substitute for rural rail or bus service, due to high prices and the inability to make stopovers in rural areas. No air service was identified to non-urbanized areas. Without intercity bus funding, it is doubtful that these places will have access to such service in the foreseeable future.
A final component of the study, the survey of current and potential intercity bus providers investigated the ability of transit providers in Illinois to provide additional service, their interest in providing such service, and reasons that they might not want to provide additional service. Of particular interest to the research team were the providers’ general interest in IDOT intercity bus programs and their willingness to participate in such programs. The survey identified several critical considerations to be made before implementing the intercity program.
Please click on the link below to download the complete “Development of Intercity Bus Strategic Plan and Program” report.
Development of IntercityBus_Strategic Plan FinalReport