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Niles Wants Your Opinion On Niles Free Bus

As trustees look at changing routes and charging fares, they want to hear your comments. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 9.

 

The Niles Village Board is looking at system, including charging a fare and altering the routes and schedules, and that has generated a lot of activity.

Trustee Joe LoVerde expressed frustration at the progress of change, Public Works staff provided information on proposed fare increases, the village's Finance Committee examined the costs of the bus, and the village scheduled public hearings (daytime and evening) on Thursday, Aug. 9. 

Earlier:

LoVerde brought up the fact that the board first started asking staff many months ago to study ways to reduce the Courtesy Bus cost.

"For over two years we've been discussing route adjustments--you were going to talk about $130,000 in savings, the mayor directed you to save $200,000, and nothing's been done," he said at the June 26 village board meeting.

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Others pointed out that the departure of a Pace Bus official slowed down plans for Niles' Arterial Rapid Transit (ART) bus, and consequently, all other public transportation in Niles.

Scott Jochim, Public Services Department director, said his department has studied route and schedule reductions and proposed instituting a per-ride fare of 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for seniors, the disabled and children.

Mike Haws of the Public Services Department said June 26 those fare levels would bring in $50,000 a year, based on 2011 ridership figures.

Niles pays 36% of bus costs, Pace pays 64%

Village Finance Director Scot Neukirch said Niles paid $643,616 in calendar year 2011 toward the courtesy bus. The village pays 36 percent of the costs.

Pace, which is responsible for 64 percent of the costs, paid $935,128. The total cost of the bus was $1,578,744, Neukirch said.

During calendar year 2011, the village went $75,000 over budget on Courtesy Bus costs, and Pace has reimbused the village for that amount, Neukirch said. 

Public may give opinions Aug. 9

Residents, riders and members of the public may give their comments on the Courtesy Bus, such as opinions on fares and route changes, at two public hearings scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 9. The first is scheduled from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and the second is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Niles Village Hall, 1000 Civic Center Drive, which is located in a mall at the southeast corner of Waukegan Road and Oakton Street. 

Prior to that date, anyone may submit written comments on paper to the village.  Comments may also be emailed to Village Manager George Van Geem at gvg@vniles.com, who said he will read them into the record at the hearing. 

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D S July 24, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Why not just charge what they need to charge to have it self sustaining? Why should taxes subsidize the few people that use it. Often times I see it go by and not a single rider is on it and I just think of how much of a waste of money it is. -d
Maria Picur July 24, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Cut out Saturday and Sunday,and keep the Free Bus Free.
George R. Van Geem July 24, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Please inform your readers that they can email their comments to me (gvg@vniles.com). I will read all comments into the record on August 9th.
George D. Alpogianis July 24, 2012 at 01:44 PM
This is an ABSOLUTELY ridiculous proposal! The Niles FREE bus is a program that has been a part of our history that has given us national recognition, with many trying to emulate and copy. Yes it is a FREE bus, nobody pays to get on or off. Nobody ever said that it is a cost-free or operational free system, just FREE to use. There is WAY too much time being dedicated to slashing and cutting, and not enough production. To all of those on the board who it applies to, do what you were elected to do and stop wasting our time and MONEY! Produce the income, don't cut programs!
Joe LoVerde July 24, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Please continue to inform your audience to send comments online. This will allow all of our citizens to get a good sense of the feelings on the courtesy bus system. If they send direct to our village manager they will need to attend the meeting to hear what was read into the record. Better this way keeps is open for all to comment. Trustee Joseph LoVerde
kathlyn williams July 24, 2012 at 04:25 PM
As someone who works directly with people who use the free bus, I would like to say what a blessing it is to have such a valued service in the area – not only for the seniors that I work with daily, but for everyone who utilizes and is aware of this service. Many times seniors and members of the community who are on strict budgets have mentioned that without the free bus, they would not be able to attend some of the free programs here at the Niles Senior Center or the Library, seek out social or nursing services, and would, in most regards, be primarily homebound or reliant on neighbors for their needs. I am grateful and proud that the community in Niles looks after seniors needs in the ways that it does, and that their social, physical, and emotional health concerns are not simply discarded due to the unwillingness to invest in these people.
Mike McKenzie July 24, 2012 at 08:50 PM
The problem with government whether it be on the federal level or the local level is it gets involved with issues it should have nothing to do with. Since when do I (a taxpayer of Niles) have to have my taxes subsidize a free bus? It is not my responsibility, nor the responsibility of the Village to find rides for those that cannot find someone to drive them. I am tired of seeing my property taxes, sales taxes, and every other tax I pay constantly go up to help subsidize services used by a select few. How about taking that $647,000 that we pay for the bus and give it back to ALL of the property owners by reducing our property tax levy, or reduce the sales tax rate so everything I buy in Niles costs less. Now that is something that would benefit the majority of Niles residents, not just those that want a free ride.
sherwin dubren July 25, 2012 at 12:31 AM
All these people whinning about the cost of a free bus. Maybe they should whine about the overly expensive police headquarters and the health club that competes with a park district club a few miles away. I don't live in Niles, but I see this as a regional trend to cut back on senior services. The seniors are probably the least organized group and less likely to oppose any cuts in their benefits. I do recommend that they express their displeasure at the voting booth. Do we know how each trustee stands on this issue? We should. Concerned neighbor in Morton Grove. It's happening here too.
mathmanbill July 25, 2012 at 01:44 AM
I have a feeling that if fares are implemented, a large percentage of the fare will be eaten up by administration and accounting. Also, there will be room for scamming the system if passes are used.
Arne Asada July 25, 2012 at 05:27 AM
I have a brilliant idea: anyone who kills a skunk can ride the bus for free for life. We are being inundated by those biological terrorists.
Danny July 26, 2012 at 05:06 AM
It should be free for Niles residents. They should start charging for non resident ?
Pat Tackett July 30, 2012 at 07:49 PM
What is it that some people and most especially elected officials at all levels of government seem to have trouble comprehending - entitlement programs cost money and it is now money the taxpayers cannot afford to give!!! The Niles Free Bus is a prime example. In the "fat cat" days of a robust economy and overheated housing market, there was money for taxes that supported this and still allowed for enough for unethical retirement bonuses. But we have been TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY! To ask the taxpayers in Niles to continue to support this, and any other nonessential service that loses money each year, is ludicrious. I too, see several buses a day go by empty. This meeting on the 9th should only consider the feasibility of continuing this service if the reduction of routes and service and a reduced fee based structure can recover the cost of providing the service without running a deficit. I would support a free or very reduced rate for seniors who can provide financial proof of need or for children under 16 years of age - but for all others, I do not support my tax dollars saving commuting costs for them. Americans used to take pride in self-sufficiency. Time to resurrect that long-lost value!
Kathy Ruhnke August 01, 2012 at 11:02 PM
From my last property tax bill, I see that $346.15 of it went toward Village of Niles (the source of the Free Bus funds, I assume). Overall my husband and I paid $6,593.48 in 2011 property taxes - of which the single largest chunk, $2,554.72, went to School District 63. Now. Our schools, parks, library, park district programs and public services help make Niles a great place to live (Bloomberg award - top place to raise a family). Growing up here, I always saw a billboard with the slogan: "Niles - Where people count." This means ALL the people who live here. And what group makes up a large - if not majority - of Niles' population? Seniors. I dug through my dad's records and found his Niles property tax bill from 2008, the year he died. With his senior freeze exemption, he paid $1,824.66 that year. Of that total, $506.96 went to Maine Township H.S. District 207, and $717.84 went to District 63. As a retired Niles resident, he paid around $1200 a year to support local schools. He moved here in 1969, and paid taxes for the 39 years he lived here. Multiply $1200 by 39 years = $46,800. Factor in the years he didn't have the senior freeze exemption, I'd guess the total he paid for district schools to be $70,000-$80,000. The total direct benefit to him? ZERO. He sent me to Catholic schools. (HA!) And yet he never griped about local school taxes. He understood the idea "for the greater good." And so, this is why I say, preserve the Free Bus.

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