Rural Transit Assistance Center

This past summer the Morris Community Foundation partnered with Mr. Richard Joyce of the Grundy County Board to begin convening stakeholders around the issue of public transportation for Grundy County.


We were nervous about starting such a daunting task until we discovered the Illinois Rural Transit Assistance Center (IRTAC) at Western Illinois University.  Ed Heflin and Dawn Piper are the two lead staff assisting us and I want to publicly thank them for sharing their wealth of experience.


As Ed and Dawn explained at our first couple of meetings, there are 62 (yes – 62!) federal funding streams for public transportation.  Most of them serve very specific populations and clientele, which explains why there are so many.  The Illinois Department of Transportation has decided to consolidate these funding streams as they implement them in Illinois and the IRTAC is the coordinating organization.


The IRTAC has developed a primer that walks us through the process so that, if we’ve done our homework along the way according to the primer, at the end of the series of meetings Grundy County will have a very clear understanding of the status of public transportation in Grundy as well as the needs.  From there we will be able to select which of the 62 federal funding streams are most appropriate for Grundy County and proceed accordingly to expand or secure new transportation funding.


The Foundation has assembled a stellar group of stakeholders, including representatives from health, disability, seniors, low income, education, workforce, veterans, housing, government, not-for-profits, transportation, faith, law enforcement, domestic violence, emergency assistance, the Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way.


After listening to them, some of the assumed transportation needs in Grundy County include transportation along I-80 and I-55 to get residents to Joliet for education, health, shopping, work, or to connect with existing public transportation such as PACE or Metra.


Grundy residents need to get between towns in the county.  Low income residents need to get to Ottawa to access the Department of Human Services.  Adults with disabilities who don’t drive need transportation during evening and weekend hours so that they can take advantage of the retail and food service jobs in our towns.  There are many jobs to be had beyond the regular 9-to-5 work week.


To add specific data to this information from the stakeholders, we have updated a survey from IRTAC that we are going to be distributing around Grundy County over the next few months.  We will have both paper and on-line surveys, both of which will also be available in Spanish.


Our first survey distribution will be during Corn Festival.  We have volunteers from our stakeholder committee who will be out and about so please be on the lookout for them!  The survey takes approximately three minutes to complete.  If you don’t have time then, we’ll hand you a postcard with the website on it so you can fill it out later at your home or library computer.


We’re asking everyone to fill out a survey – even people from the same household.  We’re a car-dependent county, therefore we’re asking everyone to think about how their life would change if that car went away for a long period of time.  How would you get to work?  If you and your spouse both have cars, who gets the one you have left?  How would you shop or get to your appointments?


Then, to ease congestion or save on gas costs, would you leave your car and use public transportation if it were available?  Would you ride a bus to the Metra train?  Would you take the bus for your errands?  Would you vanpool to work?


Please be considering a car-less life as you complete this survey.  We’re anxious to see what everyone has to say!


If you are interested in serving on the transportation stakeholder committee, please call the Foundation at 815-941-0852 for meeting dates and times.