DIXON – Greyhound Lines bus service will return to Dixon next year.
The return will be part of a 2-year pilot program and part of the federally funded Intercity Bus program, which is aimed at connecting rural areas and small cities with larger cities.
Service from Chicago to Davenport, Iowa, with stops in Dixon, East Moline, Rochelle and possibly another town, could begin March 1, said Jaime Blatti, executive director of the Lee-Ogle Transportation Service.
LOTS and Lee County are leading the organization of the pilot program, which Blatti said has been in the works for 7 years.
“It’s been stagnant, stagnant, stagnant,” she said. “And then I got involved in it and got super excited about it. ... The last 18 months, we’ve really dug down.”
Alexandra Pedrini, a Greyhound spokeswoman, said the company was working with the state and was in the “preliminary stages of re-establishing service” in Dixon, declining to comment further.
There will be two trips each day of service – one in the morning and one at night – to allow for day trips. The stops, times and prices haven’t been finalized, Blatti said.
Last year, the $2.2 million Reagan Transit Center opened in Dixon. It was built with this program in mind, Blatti said.
The Greyhound service will be run through the center, which, as the hub for the LOTS bus system, is equipped with a waiting area, dispatch area, offices, conference room and maintenance bays.
The center, 210 E. Progress Drive, off state Route 26 just south of Interstate 88, was built for LOTS with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The pilot program will cost $1,076,534, Blatti said, with money being funneled from the federal government to the state, to Lee County and then to Greyhound.
About $307,000 will be spent on two 26-passenger buses that will be made by Greyhound. The purchase orders for the buses have been sent and they could be ready by December, Blatti said.
The remaining $769,534 will cover half of the operating costs – which will include gas, maintenance, driver time, insurance and parking – and the other half will be paid for by Greyhound, she said.
The closest Greyhound stops now are in Freeport, Stockton, Moline, LaSalle and Rockford, according to the company’s website. A ticket for the 1-hour, 45-minute trip from Rockford to Chicago is $22.
Greyhound has had intermittent service in Dixon in the past. It resumed in 2009 after being stopped for many years, then was dropped Dixon and three other cities in northwest Illinois in 2011, for lack of riders. Around the same time, Burlington Trailways stopped its service to Dixon because Greyhound was running a route right ahead of it.
In 2009, Greyhound’s route took riders east to Chicago, with stops in DeKalb and Aurora, and west to Des Moines, Iowa, with stops in Moline, Davenport, Iowa, and Iowa City, Iowa.
Mayor Jim Burke said service to and from Dixon could boost tourism and help the community from a public transportation perspective. For Greyhound service to succeed in Dixon, though, the company must commit to it with heavy marketing, he said.
Blatti said advertising, in addition to involvement of the rural transportation services and continued funding, likely would lead to the program’s success.
An advertising agency has been hired and advertising will be installed along the I-88 corridor. A website also will be dedicated to the route.
The smaller, rural transportation systems, like LOTS, will act as feeder systems to help people living in places like Oregon and Amboy get to Chicago or Davenport through places like Dixon.
One of the reasons the I-88 corridor was selected, Blatti said, was the number of college and universities along it, such as Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Augustana College in Rock Island, Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon and St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
“This will be the first intercity Greyhound route in Illinois,” Blatti said. “There’s a big push on the federal level ... to go this [type of program]. This will be the introductory route for the state.”