MORRIS – After waiting more than two years for the the state to deliver on a grant, the Grundy Transit System finally received four new buses this week.
Last month, GTS acquired an additional bus that was promised in 2011, making that five new buses for the system in just one month.
"It's raining buses over here," GTS Director Sherey Zerbian said Friday.
In total, GTS now has nine buses which will greatly help meet the needs of the county's ever-expanding ridership. From 2013 to 2014, Zerbian said the Grundy Transit System saw a 38.8 percent increase in ridership numbers, jumping from 7,900 to 11,000 riders in just one year.
"So far, the system has been very well accepted," Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said.
Because of the rapid growth and the limited number of buses, GTS recently began limiting rides and required customers to schedule their rides in advance when possible.
With the onslaught of buses, Zerbian will have a full bus fleet as well as reserve buses that can be used when other buses are being repaired.
Severson said eventually, the transit system may be able to start providing daily bus routes instead of working on a ride-by-ride basis. As it stands, most people have to call and set up their service with GTS.
"What I'd like to see one day is actual bus routes that go to specified places at specified times," Severson said.
The new buses were made possible through a state grant, one of many that funds the GTS, which relies almost entirely on state and federal aid for financial support.
For several of the grants, Zerbian said there is a "local match" portion that is required, meaning she must secure a set amount of donations from local businesses, individuals and governments in order to receive the grants.
"I constantly have to find new ways to meet that local match requirement," Zerbian said.
In the upcoming months, GTS will begin using a brand new method of raising revenue to meet local match – advertising.
The new advertising program will allow local businesses to rent ad space on GTS buses – inside, outside or on the windows.
The four recently granted buses will be specially designed with more open space, on the interior and exterior, so GTS can provide more ad space to businesses.
"It's like having a rolling billboard," Zerbian said.
The funds generated through advertising can legally be put toward local match – which usually is comprised of local donations, not revenue – after state lawmakers changed certain requirements about what is defined as local match.
"Technically its revenue, but they allow us to use that for our local match," Zerbian said.
The new buses are expected to hit the road sometime in the next few weeks, but Zerbian said they are still looking for advertisers and welcome anyone interested to call the GTS office at 815-941-3060.