Transit plan makes recommendations for Elkhart County, public input sought

Sep. 13—SOUTH BEND — A new regional transit plan makes several recommendations to upgrade and improve public transportation in Elkhart County.

"Michiana on the Move — Transportation Plan 2050" was released for public comment Wednesday by the Michiana Area Council of Governments. MACOG is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for Elkhart and St. Joseph counties and a Rural Planning Organization Kosciusko and Marshall counties, by the U.S Department of Transportation.

MACOG also operates the Interurban Trolley in Elkhart and Goshen.

"MACOG in partnership with Transpo created the Connect Transit Plan," the plan states. "It outlines a vision and blueprint for enhancing public transit in the region. This multi-year study started in the summer of 2021, and was adopted by the Transpo Board of Directors plus the MACOG Policy Board in the spring of 2023.

"The plan also identifies a short-term network that is cost-neutral, except for the implementation of two new bus routes in Goshen that have already been fully funded," the plan states. "The Additional Funding Network presents an aspirational network for what public transit could be with an 80-85% increase in funding."

Specifically, the plan recommends the following changes for Goshen and Elkhart:

—All routes are numbered. With the addition of two new routes, color-coded route naming does not work well.

—Routes 32 and 33 each have small routing tweaks to connect shopping centers and other destinations more efficiently.

—Route 35 (Orange Line) no longer serves Concord Mall since activity in that area is much lower as the mall is mostly closed. With the time savings from not serving the mall, Route 35 now serves more of the industrial areas along Middlebury Street, Toledo Road, Eastland Drive and C.R. 17.

—In Goshen, new Route 52 serves West and North Goshen, reaching Roxbury Park, Arbor Ridge Apartments, and the Chamberlain Neighborhood.

—New Route 53 serves parts of South Goshen including Historic Southside, Reith Park, Greencroft, all the way to Winchester Trails.

—With the new Route 53, Route 50 (Red Line) is shifted to Main Street to directly serve Goshen Hospital and Goshen College. Route 50 also has a new deviation to serve the new County Courthouse location and to save time for this deviation, Route 50 only serves the south side of Concord Mall.

"The Short Term Network recommends changes that would slightly shift the priorities of transit investment toward goals that support higher ridership and better access for most people, within the current transit budget," the plan added. "The outcomes of the proposed changes would improve service for many, but also have trade-offs."

The draft plan is available online by visiting move.macog.com and open for public comments until Oct. 9, a news release stated. A public open house will take place in MACOG's office, 227 W. Jefferson Blvd., 11th Floor County-City Building, South Bend, Sept. 21 from 3 to 5 p.m.

"The plan ultimately provides the framework to make our region eligible for future federal transportation funding to improve and maintain roadways and active transportation infrastructure, as well as operate public transit," said Caitlin Stevens, MACOG Director of Transportation by email Wednesday.

The draft plan will be presented for approval by the MACOG Policy Board Oct. 11 at 10 a.m. in the Mishawaka City Hall, 100 Lincoln Way.

Steve Wilson is news editor for The Goshen News. You can reach him at steve.wilson@goshennews.com.