March 1, 2015
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UI Student Signatures Needed for Petitions

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No matter the weather, we’ll be there. Photo Credit Siyao Luan

Since 1989, the University of Illinois and MTD have contracted for unlimited bus access for students, faculty, and staff. Service is revisited every three years when the contracts are up for renewal and renegotiation.

We covered the last contract renewal in 2012 on the blog. One of the main additions to the 2012-2015 approved contract was the expansion of 335 SafeRides service.

2015 Referendum

For the 2016-2018 service contract, the Illinois Student Senate (ISS) prepared a petition for signatures to put two referendum questions on the March 4 and 5 ballot. In order to be included on the ballot, UI student signatures are needed! The questions are the result of months of work and research completed in coordination between the UI’s Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, ISS, and MTD.

The petition addresses maintenance of existing service and/or provision of more service. By signing, students ensure the two questions are on the ballot. Actual support of the two measures will be collected during the election.

The first question is, “Do you recommend an increase to the Transportation Fee to fund the continuation of existing CUMTD Bus Service under the Campus Transportation Plan through June 30th, 2018?”

As the supporting documentation provided by the ISS details, this increase covers inflationary costs of the current service with a $0 increase in 2016, a $1 increase for 2017, and another $1 increase in 2018. The current semester fee for 2014-2015 is $59. The Campus Transportation Ad-Hoc Committee of the ISS recommended that “all current services be continued.”

The second question asks, “Do you recommend an increase of one dollar ($1) to the Transportation Fee, separate from the increase presented in Question 1, to provide a new bus route to serve Central Campus, FAR/PAR, and the College of Veterinary Medicine?”

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Students swarm buses servicing PAR/FAR.

The Campus Transportation Ad-Hoc Committee concluded that this additional route would “improve timely arrivals for students travelling to classes to or from VetMed.” The route would essentially operate in a circle to the locations listed in the question above on a 30-minute frequency during the weekday daytime. The benefits of the new route would go beyond the students of Vet-Med. This circulator route, pictured in the supporting petition documentation, would alleviate high capacity demands during peak times.

A petition to put those questions on the ballot opened Thursday, February 19. Five percent of the total student body must vote “yes” in order for the questions to come to a vote at all.

MTD and the ISS have until 4:59 pm on Tuesday, February 24 (tomorrow!) to get the signatures needed for the election on March 4 and 5.

If you’d like another perspective, MTD posted the petition link on the UIUC sub Reddit and a healthy conversation resulted. Thanks for helping us spread the word and here’s to a continuation of great campus bus service!

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New Flooring at Illinois Terminal

Users of Illinois Terminal, MTD’s intermodal facility, are in for an aesthetic treat the next time they visit the second floor. Installation of new granite flooring and mosaic tiling began last Monday, February 6. The project’s completion is targeted for Friday, February 20.

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The second floor of Illinois Terminal with the new granite flooring.

Utility Meets Inspiration

The second floor of Illinois Terminal, like the first floor, is a high traffic area. Most visitors come to the second floor for Amtrak. The ticketing, waiting area, and platform are all located there as well as MTD staff offices. Another significant tenant is the R.E.A.D.Y. program.

“The former cork flooring had really taken a beating,” said Illinois Terminal Manager, Stu Smith. “We wanted to invest in something that would look great and last.”

Illinois Terminal opened in 1999. The second floor was originally covered in carpet that was later replaced by cork flooring. “Neither material stood up well to the volume of traffic on the second floor,” Smith said. “With Amtrak now providing over 400,000 trips to Illinois Terminal each year, we thought it was time to invest in something that really left a good impression with our guests and tenants.”

Soozie Robinson, owner of Zoom Productions, was brought on to design the flooring update. “I wanted to put in a material I’d seen in buildings that lasted through history,” said Robinson. “I wanted it to be something that was made to last a lifetime.”

The result was a 100% all natural and recyclable granite flooring. “Granite floors don’t wear out,” Robinson said. “They wear in.” Also on measures of durability and pricing, the granite won out against similar, but softer, materials like limestone, slate, and porcelain.

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A work in progress! Here’s the start to the pathway mosaic tiling.

At heavy wear areas, mosaics will be placed to provide a visual identification of a path change. These areas include the elevator doors, the top of the stairs, and the Amtrak counter. The mosaic designs will be striped and pinwheel.

“We’re hoping the mosaics will slow people down at these areas as well as provide more grip with the extra grouting,” Robinson explained.

A Shared Upgrade

Illinois Terminal Manager Stu Smith views his facility as a gateway to Champaign-Urbana. There are, of course, the local passengers utilizing MTD’s fixed-route service. But then there are the tens of thousands of passengers each year who visit Illinois Terminal to take Amtrak, Burlington Trailways, Greyhound, and Peoria Charter.

“We think this new flooring makes a great first impression that the employees of Illinois Terminal will only add to,” Smith said.

“This upgrade is adding an aesthetic moment to the city, a beautiful staging and background to inspire,” Robinson said.

Please visit Illinois Terminal and let us know what you think!

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A Guide to MTD’s How-Tos

The first post we published on our blog, The Inside Lane, was on March 18, 2011. We’ve come a long way, MTD-ers! After nearly four years of weekly blog posts, we’ve built a robust and informative archive of instructional posts.

How Tos: General Knowledge

How to Find Designated Stops in Downtown Champaign

How to Find Your Lost Item

How Hoppers Work

How to Ride the 280 tranSPORT to Memorial Stadium

How to Ride and Use MTD’s Special Services

How to Submit Feedback to MTD

How Tos: Maps & Schedules

How to Find Your Boarding Point

How to Identify Timepoints vs. Stops in Between

Why it’s Important to Read a Bus Schedule

How Tos: Technology

How to Adjust to MTD Reroutes

How to Find Routes Serving a Bus Stop

How to Use STOPwatch Real-Time

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The 7:40 am universal transfer at MTD’s Illinois Terminal.

How Tos: University of Illinois

How to Be the Best Student Bus Rider

How to Love SafeRides and Let it Love You Back

How to Maximize Routes Serving Campus

How Tos: Local School Passengers

How to Be the Best Student Bus Rider

How to Reference Area School Trips

How Tos: Alternative Transportation

How to Use the Bus Bike Rack in 10 Steps

How to Share the Road

How Tos: Weather and After Dark

How to Ride MTD After Dark

How to Ride MTD in the Winter

How to Ride Safely at Night

The Ws and an H: Rider Requests

How Do Buses Handle Potholes?

When Can You Pass a Bus?

When to Pull the Stop Request Cord?

Why Can’t Buses Kneel When It’s Below Zero?

Why Does the Bus Go Beep?

What should we cover next? Share your suggestion in the comments below.

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Green Light: Illinois Green Office Challenge

This post was written by Jane Sullivan, MTD’s Grant Manager/Sustainability Planner.

MTD is always up for a challenge, especially an environmental one. That’s why MTD is participating in the Illinois Green Office Challenge, organized by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. This challenge encourages friendly competition among area office buildings to achieve energy and water conservation as well as waste reduction.

Public and private buildings located in the cities of Peoria, Bloomington, Normal, Champaign, and Urbana are eligible to participate. On November 1, 2014, registered buildings began to earn points for completing activities in six categories: Energy, Purchasing, Waste, Transport, Outreach & Education, and Water. Current competitors, as well their rankings, are shown in the image below.

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The Illinois Green Office Challenge Leader Board as of February 2, 2015.

MTD entered our Administration and Operations facility into the Challenge. Thus far, our facility has earned points for activities including tracking energy use, conducting a waste audit, expanding collection of recyclable materials, and encouraging commuting by public transportation and bike.

You can follow the competition by checking in with the Challenge Leaderboard which features the top ten participants in real-time. At the time of this publication, MTD was in third place.

Other local facilities dominating the Leaderboard at this time include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Urbana City Building, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center in Champaign, and the Champaign County Brookens Facility in Urbana. There are also a few facilities in Peoria with spots on the Leaderboard including Peoria Charter Coach Company (currently in first place!) and the Peoria County Courthouse.

The competition runs through April 2015, so there is plenty of time to shake up the Leaderboard. New facilities can still accept the challenge and get their names on the board. Good luck to all participants!

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Illinois Terminal Got Swarmed

Champaign’s own professional minor league basketball team recently swarmed Illinois Terminal last Friday, January 23 for their team’s season photos. Champaign Swarm plays in the Midwest Professional Basketball Association (MPBA) and their home court is at Parkland College.

The Champaign Swarm fondly refers to themselves as a “bus league” because all their games are within busing distance. Their 2015 schedule is available and their Facebook Page offers lots of fun content.

Illinois Terminal is Your Ticket to Ride

MTD’s Illinois Terminal was, in our opinion, the perfect place for the Champaign Swarm to take their team photos. Illinois Terminal not only offers MTD’s intraurban bus connections around Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, but several interurban services also operate from the facility. Regional providers include Amtrak, Burlington Trailways, Danville JARC, Greyhound, and Peoria Charter.

For local MTD travel, Illinois Terminal’s Customer Service Center issues Monthly and Annual Passes as well as DASH Cards and school tokens (all fares and passes).

MTD is Your Ride to Parkland College

Want to join the swarm? Be like the players and ride the bus! Ride the 50 Green/GREENhopper or 70 Grey to Monday through Friday games, which usually jump off in the evenings. On Saturdays, take the 180 Lime B.

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Welcome Spring Semester 2015

A couple quick service reminders before we drive into this week’s post. MTD lifted University of Illinois Winter Break service reductions yesterday, January 18. We are back to full regular service! MTD is operating full service today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

March 20, 2015 is the first day of spring – just nine weeks away! But as far as the academic calendar is concerned, the spring semester has already begun. We’re dedicating this week’s post to all Chambana students with tips on how to make the most of MTD’s services.

Welcome Aboard Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana District 116!

If your family lives within our District, MTD is your transportation provider to and from middle and high school. You ride school trips that are assigned by school administrators and designed by MTD. Here are our top five tips for you:

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Urbana High School students board MTD school trips.

5) If your home residence changes mid-school year, please contact the school to get the transportation information on your student ID updated.

4) Have your student ID ready when you board. It is our responsibility to get you to and from school safely. To do that, MTD operators must check your ID to ensure you are boarding the right bus.

3) Be at the stop five minutes before your scheduled departure.

2) Use our interactive school route maps and schedules to learn more about your transportation.

1) Be a leader! Remind your peers to stay seated, talk quietly, and exit out the rear door to make the ride as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Welcome Aboard Parkland College!

MTD provides frequent service to Parkland College. During the weekday daytime, take the 7 Grey, 9A Brown, or 9B Brown. Parkland is served by the 50 Green/GREENhopper and 70 Grey during weekday evenings. During Saturday daytime, Parkland is served by the 180B Lime. There is no Sunday service. Our top five tips for Parkland Cobras:

5) When using our website, let bus stop autofill be your guide. As you type “Parkland College” into our Trip Planner or Bus Stop Lookup, a drop down box will automatically populate with actual MTD bus stops. Use your mouse or scroll keys to select “Parkland College” instead of just hitting enter in the dialogue box. This will select MTD’s official Parkland bus stop and provide quicker, more accurate results.

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MTD is proud of our Parkland Diesel Tech Program graduates!

4) Middle and high school trips are open to the public, but do not operate when the local schools are not in session. If you’re riding to Parkland on a day when the middle and high schools are closed, like President’s Day, please make sure your trip won’t be affected! Check the timetable for the route you ride and look for school trip footnotes.

3) Visit our App Garage to download one of our community-built apps! You can also get a key to our API and build one yourself.

2) Save on bus fares and purchase an MTD Monthly Pass! It’s $15 and good for one calendar month of unlimited rides.

1) Save even more by buying an Annual Pass! Annual Pass gift certificates are available for purchase in the Parkland Bookstore. You can use alternative funds, like loan or scholarship money to purchase the certificate, but you must come to Illinois Terminal to be issued the official photo ID pass.

Welcome Aboard Fighting Illini!

As students, faculty, and staff return to routine, here are our top five tips for the semester:

5) The next round of service reductions will come with the University’s Spring Break. MTD reductions will begin Saturday, March 21.

4) Did you leave something onboard? This post covers the route you’ll take to (hopefully) recover your item. Was it your iCard? All found iCards are returned immediately to the Urbana ID Center in the Illini Union Bookstore.

3) Visit our App Garage to download one of our community-built apps! You can also get a key to our API and build one yourself.

2) Currently, 335 SafeRides begins operating at 5:00 pm. The start time will get pushed back to 7:00 pm, thanks to increasing daylight hours, on Sunday, March 8.

1) Always have your iCard with you. The campus routes (1/100 Yellow, 10 Gold/GOLDhopper, 12/120 Teal, and 22/220 Illini) feature iStop corridors, which allow passengers to board at any door without showing an ID or paying a fare. But iStops do not cover the entirety of these routes and all other MTD routes require an ID or fare. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Any tips you’d like to add for any of these student groups? Share them in the comments!

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MTD Server Upgrade Affects Real-Time

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Farewell, servers. It’s been a great ride. Here’s to three new virtualized servers!

We’ve got great news and not so great news. The great news is we will be upgrading the servers that make real-time bus departure information available. The not-so-great news is the upgrade will temporarily take down STOPwatch real-time.

The upgrade will begin at 8:00 pm this Wednesday, January 14 and is estimated to take several hours. While we upgrade, real-time information may be unavailable through any of our tools including STOPwatch kiosks, apps, and both our website and mobile site. In normal circumstances, scheduled trip information would be displayed in place of the real-time, but unfortunately that too may be unavailable.

Why the Upgrade?

Currently, there are over a dozen physical servers responsible for running our CAD/AVL (computer aided dispatch/automatic vehicle locator) system. These servers are old, almost a decade old, which in server years makes this equipment much overdue for replacement.

“Just like we replace lines and hoses in our buses before they break,” said Ryan Blackman, MTD’s Software Developer/Network Administrator. “We’re taking this proactive maintenance step with our servers.”

The new servers will improve our system’s speed as well as its reliability.

“This isn’t a one-to-one server replacement,” explains Blackman. “We’re virtualizing our servers and going from over a dozen physical servers to just three physical computer servers.”

How is that possible? For one, servers have advanced a great deal since the early 2000s. Second, the three new servers will break up the work of the current ones. By virtualizing to these new and powerful servers, MTD is also increasing the system’s reliability.

“With our old server system, if one crashed, it took the entire system down with it,” Blackman said. “But with virtual servers, if one ‘dies,’ the other two will pick up the burden of the ‘dead’ server and it will have little noticeable impact on our operation and passengers.”

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MTD’s three new servers! So much less space with so much more power.

Blackman also anticipates a reduction in our energy usage. While the three new servers are more powerful and require more energy, the aggregate energy usage will likely go down.

System Benefits

We could go on, but here is a review as well as additional benefits of this upgrade:

  • improved system speed
  • increased reliability
  • new equipment is faster
  • up-to-date equipment enables MTD to use latest versions of CAD/AVL (real-time data) modules

“These servers are clunkers. This upgrade is much overdue,” Blackman said, for like the fifth time. “This update will also, hopefully, make future system updates go smoother.”

Reference Timetables

If you’ll be riding this Wednesday evening, please visit our Maps & Schedules section for departure times. The Trip Planner is another tool to use as times displayed in the itineraries will be scheduled time, not real-time. You can also pick up a physical Maps & Schedules book on any bus, at Illinois Terminal, and at our Operations and Administration building at 1101 East University in Urbana. Customers are, of course, welcome to call us anytime at 217.384.8188.

MTD regrets any inconvenience that the temporary outage may cause. INIT, the company MTD contracts with to provide real-time service, is committed to a swift and quality upgrade. They’re sending two representatives for support, one from their United States office and one from Germany. Thanks for your patience and wish us luck!

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Green Light: Annual Environmental Report

This blog post was written by Jane Sullivan, MTD’s Grant Manager/Sustainability Planner.

To close out 2014 in a “green” way, we’d like to share the information presented in our Annual Environmental Report. This report turned presentation served many purposes – sharing it with all of you being one of them!

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Year in Review: Sustainable Accomplishments

This presentation was given to MTD’s Board of Trustees at our meeting in December 2014. The presentation was given by the Environmental and Sustainability Management System (ESMS) Core Team, which includes seven MTD staff members. The talk served as one of the two semi-annual ESMS Management Reviews required by the ISO 14001:2008 Standard.

The team provided an overview of the year’s sustainable accomplishments, an update on the District’s ISO 14001-Certified ESMS, a summary of the District’s recent sustainability efforts and community involvement, and a statement of our commitment to continual improvement.

Highlights of the report are shown below and you’re welcome to view the full report here.

Green Highlights

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Environmental and Sustainability Management System Objectives, Targets, and Programs

Page three of the report (pictured above) displays sustainable accomplishments in 2014 including our Illinois Green Business Association Certification and Gold Level Achievement recognition for the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Sustainability Commitment. We also continued our efforts to maintain ISO 14001 Certification throughout the year.

Even after our environmental objectives are accomplished and targets are reached, it is still important to continue to monitor the progress of these aspects. We need to verify we’re driving in the right direction! Page five of the report (pictured right) checks back in with past objectives, targets, and programs of our ESMS to ensure that we are still on an environmentally sustainable track.

It was exciting to have the opportunity to reflect on MTD’s sustainable accomplishments in 2014. We look forward to sharing another Annual Environmental Report with the Board and all of you at the end of 2015. Happy New Year!

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Pro Tips for Winter Riding

In honor of this week’s colder weather, here are five pro tips to make riding in the winter months more comfortable.

Plan Ahead

A majority of our trips act as you’d expect them to, but there are variations. Peak commute times (approximately 6:30 – 8:00 am and again 4:30 – 6:00 pm) are especially susceptible to scheduling and routing alterations. Our Trip Planner is the perfect anecdote.

You can specify day of travel as well as desired departure or arrival time after inputting your starting and ending intersection, landmark, or address. The resulting itineraries will account for any variations and ensure you’re kept on track.

If you don’t have internet access, an updated MTD Maps & Schedules Book will do the trick. Be sure to carefully read all footnotes referenced for your trip. We’re on the second edition of our 2014-2015 service year. Check the spine of your book to make sure you’re up-to-date (pictured below).

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The best way to check if your Maps & Schedules Book is up to date? Read the spine!

Become a MyRIDE Subscriber

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You can customize MyRIDE to send you email and/or text alerts for only the routes you select!

MyRIDE is MTD’s personalized rider experience. All you need is an email address to join. You can choose which routes you and your family ride and if a reroute is put on, or a service notice posted, you will be personally notified by email and/or text.

Another feature is adding bus stops to a list of favorites. After doing that through Bus Stop Lookup, your top five will be displayed in the sidebar of MTD’s website whenever you’re logged in. You can easily add or remove stops.

Get STOPwatch Real-Time

Thanks to the power of CAD-AVL (computer aided dispatch-automatic vehicle locator) technology, you can track the departure of your bus based on your stop. There are three ways to get this information on the go.

  1. Visit our App Garage to find an app to download. Thanks to our community developers for building these tools! Most apps offer both real-time tracking and trip planning.
  2. Use our mobile website,, to track STOPwatch. It is dedicated to looking up stops and checking real-time.
  3. Finally, you can use text messaging. Every bus stop in our system has a unique four digit code. All four numbers are preceded by “mtd.” You can find these codes on our bus stop signs, shelter boards, Maps & Schedules Book, and website. So let’s say you want to check times for Illinois Terminal. The unique code is “mtd3121″ and you’ll put that code in the body of the text. You’ll then send the text to “35890.”

Give Yourself (And Us) Extra Time

While we can hope for a mild winter, severe weather seems inevitable. We all need to make adjustments when snow, slush, and ice cover the streets. MTD operators will reduce speeds for safety. We also increase our following distances to allow for more braking and response time. Bad weather makes for bad road conditions, so please anticipate delays. Thanks for your patience!

Stay tuned in! It is unlikely MTD will pull service, but we may temporarily cut service to outlying areas. During winter storms, MTD Supervisors are constantly checking road conditions to ensure we can safely travel all of our routes. Check our website and visit our Twitter and Facebook feeds for information on abbreviated services. MTD also communicates with local television networks and radio stations about service alterations. You can, of course, give us a call at 217.384.8188 to check the status of your route.

Think Bright Layers

Winter wear is often produced in dark colors. This makes it difficult for our operators and surrounding traffic to see you when you’re walking to and from the bus stop.

Consider purchasing some brightly colored winter accessories! You’ll need to bundle up anyway, so grab a pair of neon colored gloves, a pair of boots with reflective striping, and a light colored hat.

Any pro tips you’d like to share? Add them in the comments below!

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Transportation to the Heart of Dallas Bowl

Service Reminder: There will be no evening MTD service on Christmas Eve, December 24. There will be no MTD service at all on Christmas Day, December 25. Thank you for your understanding and Merry Christmas!

Congratulations to the Fighting Illini Football Team who were chosen to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl this Friday, December 26 at noon! MTD’s transit friends in Dallas, DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit), provided us with detailed travel information for incoming Illini fans.

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DART’s Fair Park Station Photo Credit: DART

Green Line is Your Green Light

DART provides fans with an easy and stress-free means of travel to the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium. DART light rail provides service directly to the “heart” of the game featuring Louisiana Tech from Conference USA and Big Ten Conference member Illinois. Here’s a spotlight on transport to the stadium.

Fighting Illini fans can purchase a $5 Local Day Pass, which works for both DART Rail and buses, by cash or credit card at ticket vending machines located at all DART stations. You can save a step and purchase a day pass in advance with DART’s GoPass℠. This free mobile ticketing application is available for download through Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Fans can get to the stadium by way of two different Green Line stations. One is called Fair Park Station (pictured) and is located on Parry Avenue at the fairgrounds entrance. The second is called MLK, Jr. Station and is located south of R.B. Cullum Boulevard. Both stations provide convenient access to the Cotton Bowl Stadium.

If you need to transfer to the Green Line from the Red, Orange, or Blue lines, you can do so at any of the four downtown Dallas rail stations: West End, Akard, St. Paul, or Pearl/Arts District.

DART’s website has all the additional information you need or you can call their Customer Information at 214.979.1111. Safe travels, and GO ILLINI!

Transport to Willard Airport

Dallas/Fort Worth is one of the two locations American Airlines serves out of Willard Airport in Savoy. Very convenient.

The 27/270 Air Bus serves Willard and operates Monday through Saturday. The route and timetable are not affected by the University of Illinois Winter Break Service Reductions with the exception of two days. There is no evening service on Christmas Eve December 24 and New Year’s Eve December 31. As a result, the final trip of the 27 Air Bus will end at Illinois Terminal at 6:18 pm on both those days. And, of course, as with all MTD service, as with all MTD service, there is no service all day Christmas Day (December 25) or New Year’s Day (January 1).

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Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District
1101 East University Avenue
Urbana, IL 61802-2009
(217) 384-8188
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