By LAUREN WINTHER
Though a dozen bundled-up residents waited at the Metro Transit bus stop at Stadium Drive and 11th Street, the silence was powerful — except for when the crunch of snow under someone’s boots signaled a new rider joining the huddle.
After seven minutes of waiting, the hum of the bus could be heard, causing the passengers to shift closer to the edge of the sidewalk, like penguins preparing to dive off a snowy ice bank. The bus slowly pulled over to the curb and the riders filed up the bus steps, taking turns swiping bus passes or flashing student identification cards before taking their seats.
“Only a few more months of this,” said Trisha Williams, 21, of Grand Rapids. Williams is eagerly anticipating the start of Sunday service that begins Sept. 6 on the regular bus system. It will be the first time in the 49-year history of Metro Transit that the buses will run on Sundays, said Sean McBride, executive director of County Transportation Authority.
Many bus riders say their activities are restricted due to the busses operating schedule, which begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 10:15 p.m Monday through Saturday.
Twenty percent of riders surveyed in 2015 said they wanted Sunday services so that they can go to church and visit family and friends. As a result of the requests, the Kalamazoo City Commission added the Sunday service.
“I’ve been riding the bus my whole life; I depend on it because I am unable to drive,” Williams said. “I feel like I don’t have the complete freedom of someone who were in a car, but the extended times would let me go more places.”
Rosemary Morris, 55, of Kalamazoo, rides the bus everyday to work at Circle K and believes extended hours would help workers.
“The people I work for are real good at working around the bus schedule,” Morris said. “They do it to be nice. They don’t have to.”
Metro County Connect made history with the first Sunday route on Sunday, Feb. 7. Metro County Connect, by appointment, transports Kalamazoo residents with disabilities.
Sharol Roche, 44, of Kalamazoo, has been riding the bus for 20 years. She uses it to go to appointments, to work and to get groceries.
“I don’t know what I would do without the bus system because that’s my way around,” Roche said.
While Sunday services offer riders to have more work hours and be more social, many passengers are looking forward to attending religious services.
Williams said that being able to go to church independently would make her life easier.
“The people in my life aren’t into going to church,” Williams said. “It’s hard to get back and forth when no one wants to go with me. Having a Sunday route would be easier than asking a friend to go along.”
The extended hours are possible because voters approved a $0.75 mill tax last fall that will stay in place until 2020. The tax costs $45 a year on a home that is valued at $120,000 and taxable at $60,000. The millage is used to fund Metro County Connect as well as fixed-route bus services, according to the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority.
Regular rider Cynthia Pylee, 48, believes the new system will help her rely less on family transportation.
“I use the busses a lot,” Pylee said. “My children have to take me around on Sundays, so it’ll be nice to have some independence.”