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Local transportation systems part of growing statewide network

LOTS made 20,535 trips in 3-month period

DIXON – A Greyhound Lines pilot program could be up and running in March, bringing service between the Quad Cities to Chicago, with stops in Dixon and other smaller cities along the way.

And when it is, current public transportation systems like Lee-Ogle Transportation System or Whiteside County Public Transportation will be able to expand the public transportation network, connecting Sauk Valley residents to larger urban areas with consistent options.

But the current county public transportation systems have been in use for a while, and play an important role for some residents, providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, to work or to school.

In April, May and June, LOTS made 20,535 trips for 120,246 miles and logged 6,950 hours, said Executive Director Jaime Blatti, who added that the biggest misconception is that they’re the senior bus.

“I would say that we are a not-for-profit community organization, and our mission is to serve our residents to the best of our ability,” she said. “The reason we are here is to provide a service, just like the health department and the YMCA.”

LOTS runs regular routes to Sauk Valley Community College and has partnerships with Kreider Services and the Lee County Council on Aging. LOTS buses also take students to local elementary schools.

LOTS funding comes through state and federal programs.

Unlike public transportation in an urban area, rural transportation doesn’t have fixed routes. Residents call the dispatch operators to set up an appointment. They’re then picked up and taken to their destination. Often, there’s a return trip.

Laura Calderon is executive director of the Illinois Public Transportation Association, a public transportation advocacy group. She said the “on demand” nature of rural transportation creates a challenge.

“It’s a door-to-door, curb-to-curb service,” she said. “And that type of service is much more expensive than the fixed route.”

The smaller buses travel more miles on rural roads, which aren’t as well-maintained as city roads. That increases maintenance costs. There also are fewer riders, so the more cost-efficient approach of shuttling many riders at once, like in an urban areas, isn’t possible as often.

Blatti said LOTS tries to schedule riders in the most efficient way and uses computer software to manage all the appointments and proposed routes to find the best combinations.

“There are two ongoing challenges that will never change,” Blatti said. “There will never be enough funding, and there will never be enough vehicles.”

One-way, in-town rides, for those between the ages of 6 and 59, cost $2, with an additional 35 cents a mile for trips out of town. But the actual cost for each trip is about $13, Blatti said, meaning LOTS pays for the other $11 with its funding sources.

Blatti’s goal is to get the total cost for a trip down to $10, she said.

LOTS has 32 drivers, 36 buses and six dispatch operators.

Rides through LOTS must either start or end in Lee or Ogle County, but longer distance rides can be arraigned with other systems, too, taking advantage of a growing statewide network.

That network will be expanded and improved with the Greyhound pilot program. And in the past 12 years, the state has worked to expand the number of rural transportation systems.

The state’s funding for the operating budgets of these rural transportation systems is the best in the country, Calderon said.

But there is still room for improvement, she added, as the rate of trip denials is too high in some areas.

For LOTS – in April, May and June – there were only 25 trip denials, in addition to those 20,535 trips.

Those 25 denials could be people who called and couldn’t schedule a ride for the exact time they wanted, but still used the service, Blatti said. Those rides still get recorded as denials, she said, adding that the dispatch operators will work with riders to find a solution.

Nearly every county outside of Cook and its collar counties has a transportation system, either for itself, with several others or as part of a transportation district.

Illinois has taken strides, Calderon said, in providing access to public transportation throughout the state, and the Greyhound pilot program is a good example of the continued effort.

“I would say we’re in better shape than most states,” she said. “I still think we have a ways to go. We have systems in a lot [of counties], but I don’t think they all reach all the riders.”

To catch a ride

To schedule at trip with the Lee-Ogle Transportation Service, call 888-239-9228 or 815-288-2177.

Transportation is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Go to or find it on Facebook for more information.

To schedule a trip with Whiteside County Public Transportation, call 815-625-7433.

Transportation is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Visit or find Whiteside County Public Transportation on Facebook for more information.

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