By Jim Meadows
A transit district formed to challenge the expansion of Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit into Southwest Champaign is throwing in the towel. On Tuesday evening, the board of the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District approved plans for its dissolution.
Backers of the Champaign Southwest MTD believed southwest Champaign didn’t need bus service or the property taxes that paid for it. But a legal fluke left the two transit districts with overlapping territory. Requests to remove one district or the other were rejected by the courts. Jack Dempsey, the Champaign Southwest MTD’s newest board member, said that sealed their fate.
“Once the court had ruled, the purpose of the district was no longer valid”, Dempsey explained. “And I think the right thing happened tonight, which was to dissolve and find a civic use for the taxpayers of the money as it related to transportation.”
Champaign Southwest Board Chairman Ed Vaughan says that despite their failure to achieve their main goal of stopping the Champaign-Urbana MTD from expansion, he believes they got their message across.
"We brought a lot of awareness to the fact that they run empty buses … whether they’re needed or not’, said Vaughan. “But at the same time, out here, I’m seeing that some of the buses are smaller buses … Did we accomplish something by doing that? You better believe it."
At its quarterly meeting in Champaign Tuesday night, Champaign Southwest MTD Board members voted 5-0 to convert leftover funds of about $75, 000 into an endowment to help needy residents of the district pay for transportation services. Once the money is transferred to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois, Champaign Southwest Transit Board Chairman Ed Vaughan will formally ask the Champaign County Board to dissolve the district. That may not happen for a few months. But for now, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Board has no further scheduled meetings, and has already dropped its property tax levy down to zero.