Community Member’s Suggestion Leads to Warmth for Many

T.F. waits for his connecting bus at MTD’s Round Barn Road stop

Champaign, IL—When T. F. hit a deer with his car several days ago on I-72 near Decatur, he was happy—happy that he and his daughter were O.K., since his car appeared to be a total loss. While his insurance company assesses the damage to his vehicle and calculates coverage, he’s started riding the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) to his job at a local grocery and to get around town.

So when T.F. alighted at the Round Barn Road stop to transfer to his bus home yesterday, he was pleased to find a new (warm) place to wait. Just a few minutes before he arrived, Bus #1175 parked at the stop to serve as a passenger warming station for the remainder of MTD’s service day. When T.F. approached the bench at the stop to wait for his next bus, MTD Operator Irvin popped out to let him know he could wait inside.

The Round Barn Road stop is a major transfer point for MTD in west Champaign and serves hundreds, often thousands, of people each day. As temperatures for 3 of the first 4 days of 2018 broke record lows, MTD has been concerned about the lack of bus shelters at this particular stop. “This is a relatively new transfer point for us,” said MTD Managing Director Karl Gnadt, “and while we work through longer-term options and scenarios, we want to be responsive to the fact that it’s far, far colder right now than it normally is in Central Illinois.”

Warming bus #1175 stationed at the Round Barn Road stop in Champaign, IL

So when a community member suggested the short-term solution of parking a warming bus at the stop on dangerously cold days, MTD was receptive and responsive. “We can’t take credit for the idea,” said Gnadt. “But we’re good listeners, and we were able to make the idea happen pretty quickly. ”

T.F. wasn’t the only one to notice. A Facebook post about the warming bus went viral, garnering hundreds of likes and shares and being viewed by nearly 50,000 people in just a few hours. One Facebook commmenter noted, “I can’t imagine how many people are feeling hopeless (or even just cold for a few minutes!) who will appreciate having a space to warm up for a bit.”

The decision to send a warming bus to the Round Barn Road stop will be made by MTD on a daily basis, with one generally being sent when temperatures are under 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or when cold and extreme winds are present.

“We’re glad it helps our passengers,” said Gnadt. “This is a great example of a community coming together to look out for each other and public participation having an immediate impact.”

MTD offers mobility options to residents of Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, Illinois that include buses, rides for seniors, ADA Paratransit, ZipCar availability, SafeRides home for Illinois students at night, and resources to encourage walkability, biking, and safety. Find out more about riding public transit in bitterly cold weather here.