MOLINE, Illinois – One month into a new bus route that shuttles people across the Mississippi River, reports show that fewer people than expected are actually taking advantage of the new bus route.
Gary Harmening is a loyal rider of the new STRETCH bus, which launched its path in December of 2018. He said he's also noticed few people on board.
“Not a whole lot really, maybe like half a dozen,” says Harmening. “It’s the only option I got for getting across the river."
According to MetroLINK, about 500 people ride one of the four STRETCH buses each week.
Harmening takes the STRETCH bus from Moline to Bettendorf to get to his job at the Hyvee on 53rd Street.
“I used to drive but the last few years I’ve been taking the bus for my only transportation,” explains Harmening. “Cheapest option, only option.”
The STRETCH buses started during December of 2018 to take the place of the Bridge line route to alleviate traffic.
“When you think of it in terms of cars, if I can get 40 cars off the I-74 bridge and put 40 people into an entire bus I think that’s great for the entire community,” said Jennifer Hirsch, Manager of Administration for MetroLINK, back in December.
But after a month of service that is not happening. Seats are open, and congestion is nowhere to be found as traffic over the I-74 bridge flows smoothly even at prime rush hour. But all of that may change as construction progresses.
“They are going to start putting heavy steel beams out in Moline and I don’t know how that’s going to effect the bus travel,” explains Harmening.
Soon construction will condense bridge traffic down to one lane, which could clog up traffic - making the STRETCH bus a viable option for some.
“It’s something new, chances are I’m going to have to deal with it but I’m going to remain a passenger,” Harmening says.
“Maybe you haven’t taken transit before, but we don’t know what is going to happen with some of the traffic that we think is going to occur next year when we have some pretty busy construction activity,” says Hirsch.
And although some drivers may not be on board with the idea, STRETCH will remain an option for those who need it most.
STRETCH is part of an 18-month project that was part of a $1.3 million grant. Once the project is complete, Bettendorf will resume the Bridge line route.