So, I think I have complained before about the lack of transportation alternatives in Bloomington and how hard it is to get to other communities. Part of my focus has been complaining about the lack of trains in the area but there also have not been good bus or car-share options. Happily, there are a few new developments happening – plus a couple that seem to have escaped my notice when they arrived. I haven’t tried them all out yet but here’s the breakdown of motorized transportation options in Bloomington that don’t involve owning your own car. (Walking and biking are also important, of course – and don’t forget dog pulling!)
Getting Out of Town
1. Bloomington Shuttle Service - originally just provided service to and from the airport ($15) but now they also have weekend service to Chicagoland where you go Friday night and come back Sunday night ($82). However, the stops are all in the Chicago suburbs so I’m not sure what transportation options there are to actually get into the city. (A quick Google Transit search says there’s no super easy option since malls tend to be located on interstates rather than subway lines).
2. Star of America – also started here with a focus on transportation to and from the airport ($15) but now also offering service to Chicagoland that is similar to the Bloomington Shuttle Service but a little cheaper. I think they also offered a few special summer trips last year, including one down to the “Splashing Safari” water park as a day trip.
3. Miller Trailways – a little closer to a Greyhound type service with a number of set routes around the state, mostly connecting Indianapolis with other big cities but stopping at smaller towns along the way. We are on the “Indianapolis-Evansville” route which means we could catch a ride either headed north to Indy or headed south and west to places like Bedford, Paoli, Vincennes, and Evansville. I would definitely consider paying $16 to ride the bus down to Paoli instead of driving and am glad that the Amish communities in that area do have a bus option when they need it.
4. ZipCar – Yay, we have a zipcar now!! This is very new to Bloomington and Indiana University. Anyone can become a member and then rent a car by the hour or day although there is a discount for IU students, faculty, and staff. It’s not the cheapest option in the world but neither is owning a car and I’m very happy this option is available to us now. (There are also other car rental places in town that tend to be a little cheaper for longer term rentals.)
5. ZimRide – This is another cool new program that is designed to encourage ridesharing. It’s basically an internet-based rideshare board but you can also rate people as good or not-so-good ride options so it will hopefully help people find ways to build a network of safe ride options. Alas, it does not appear to be up and running for IU just yet but I know the university signed a two-year contract only a couple weeks ago so hopefully it will be available within the next month.
Getting Around Town
1. Bloomington Transit – basic bus service within city limits, nice reliable service, fairly cheap ($1.00/ride), can be time consuming depending on where you’re trying to go, especially since almost all routes go to the bus station downtown. I still want to launch my “bus fairy” concept where route information would be posted at every bus stop so when you’re wandering around town you can understand your city bus options. I think this might help people start to consider the bus as an option (as in “Gee, it turns out I could hop on the bus right outside of my apartment and be downtown in ten minutes!”)
2. IU Campus Bus Service – basic bus service around campus, free for students and employees (and I don’t think they check IDs), I myself have never quite figured out the routes (see the “bus fairy” idea above).
3. Rural Transit – this is a great service that does not get enough press, possibly because it’s focused on areas outside of Bloomington and possibly because if too many people found out about it, they would be overwhelmed with requests. Basically, the rural transit buses are designed to help folks in the county get into Bloomington, Elletsville, Spencer, and other nearby towns. There are a few set routes (including one I used to ride to Ivy Tech when I worked there) and what they call “county sweeps” where they will pick people up at home out in the county in the early morning and deliver them to the Bloomington bus station in time to take a city bus to work. There is also a special service where you can call 24 hours in advance and ask to be added to one of their routes. They have specific routes each day of the week so if you live in Smithville, Wednesday is your “route” day and you can call to be picked up and taken anywhere along that route – picnic at Fairfax Beach, be dropped off in downtown Bloomington, visit a friend in nearby Clear Creek, etc. The price for a ride is $0.75. Pretty amazing, right?
4. Fresh Air Taxis – Okay, this is not a motorized transportation option but I thought it was cool enough to include – we now have a bicycle rickshaw service in town. As an interesting side note, the city ended up modifying city code to create some guidance for bicycle rickshaws when they were approached for a business license and the business did not fit into any of their regular slots.
So, I’m feeling a little better about the state of alternative transportation in Bloomington. There are still many, many improvements that can be made and I hope to push them forward with my new position on the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability. Let me know if you have specific suggestions.