SMTD extending free rides to veterans, adding more options to communities
“Based on an overwhelming consensus of public hearing in favor of the proposal to allow veterans to ride for free, and on the heels of the Village of Roscoe board request and support from Rockton and South Beloit boards, immediate action was taken to start this process," SMTD executive director Sharon Hecox said.
Stateline Mass Transit (SMTD) has always adhered to the motto, “We're Here To Get You There.”
In the past 14 years since SMTD came into existence, they have lived by this motto. Now they are expanding on services and extending a special offer to all veterans.
Hecox said, “There was some coordination with Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD), which is SMTD's service provider, on ticketing procedures and website registration forms having to be updated to accommodate the free fare option.”
“We needed to have a policy in place before we could implement the change to give free rides to veterans. Everyone in dispatch, the drivers, riders and office staff needed to be updated and on board with how this is happening.”
At the public hearing on June 30, SMTD trustee Jack Cook expressed an appreciation for the opportunity to promote veterans in any way. He wanted to attend the hearing to voice support in favor of the proposal to offer free fares to veterans. Cook himself is a veteran who served in the reserves for many years, retiring as a colonel. Cook also taught at West Point.
SMTD trustee Mari Mattocks has many family members who are current or past members of the military. She is the mother of two boys who are serving in the Air Force and the sister of brothers and a father in law who had served in the Navy. She was fully in favor of the change.
SMTD trustee Dick Adams shared at the hearing that he regrettably was denied for service in the armed forces after numerous attempts to enlist. He wholeheartedly supported offering these free fares. SMTD chairman Gus Larson, RMTD director of operations Dan Engelkes, and metropolitan planner Makenzee Wilcox (RI Planning) all also were in favor of free fares.
The fee structure changes went into effect on July 1 with an official resolution passing at SMTD's July 27 board meeting. Veterans must provide Proof of Veteran status by showing either a DD-214 or a State ID displaying the Veteran logo on it. All applicants must call the SMTD office at 815-779-771-6778 to register or to obtain a status of registration.
Before now, fares for veterans were $3 or $1.50 as applicable. Factors determining former rates might have been age related or if a veteran might be disabled.
Currently SMTD has a fleet of eight buses. “We are looking to replace six buses. Some were purchased in 2016 to 2018,” Hecox said.
Hecox applied for a new radio repeater to replace an preexisting one that has some age on it. The repeater connects with River Bluff Nursing Home on North Main Street in Rockford. This connection runs between River Bluff and the service area covered by SMTD.
By request of SMTD riders, a grant application has been submitted to the State of Illinois, asking that new buses be equipped with bike racks. “The racks would benefit bicycle riders who want to utilize bike paths and will help to increase mobility,” Hecox said. “We are working collaboratively in South Beloit to bring a program that is similar to a 'park and ride.' If a grant is approved, bicycle maintenance and repairs would be included in the plans.”
In the future, SMTD would like to incorporate a shelter hub with solar lighting and charging stations for cell phones. This would provide a nice bonus while waiting for buses to arrive.
Hecox has applied for funds through the Rebuild Illinois capital grant program for each idea that has recently been presented. The bike rack request falls under round 3 of the grant process.
All are invited to join the Stateline Mass Transit District Text Club to receive information on upcoming specials, announcements, and information. Just text "SMTD" to the number 815-269-1999.
SMTD's service area [PDF] covers Rockton, Roscoe, South Beloit and their townships. When needed, buses can also take residents into Rockford, Loves Park, Machesney Park, Beloit and the Town of Beloit for needed medical services. Or residents of nearby towns can take a SMTD bus to a medical appointment in the SMTD service area. Additionally, their bus routes connect to Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) at 173 and Alpine (in front of Target) and with Beloit Transit System (BTS) at Shirland Avenue.
With SMTD, seniors can feel comfortable getting where they need to go, whether to a shopping center or to a doctor’s appointment. Young adults can grab a ride to work, or anywhere else they may want to go. Teenagers or middle to grade school age children may be picked up at home and taken to recreational facilities, to a swimming pool, to the library or to any number of activities. Once they have registered with the service, anyone can be picked up at any specific location.
Buses operate daily and are handicap accessible. To schedule a ride, call 877-561-3300 between the hours of 5:15 a.m. until 10 p.m., Monday through Friday.
SMTD continues to get everyone where they have to go, all while working toward forward thinking to bring long term goals to life, while expanding extra opportunities for riders.
Click below to view an extra-large map of the SMTD service area.