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The Next Ten Years of Bus Service

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

August 30, 2022 

For months TRANSPO has been engaging with our community to gather feedback on what the next ten years of bus service should look like in the greater South Bend-Elkhart region. There are two primary questions before us:  

1. Which service model should TRANSPO use to best serve our area? 

  • Coverage model: organize service and routes to cover the largest geographic area possible with very infrequent service  

  • Ridership model: organize routes and service to provide the greatest access to opportunities (jobs, education, health services, etc.) to the largest number of people 

2. Does our community support increased funding to provide more equitable and optimal bus service that leverages the best of the coverage and ridership models to provide frequent, reliable service over a large geographic area? 

Downtown South Bend, Inc. (DTSB) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the continued growth and prosperity of downtown South Bend. Downtown South Bend is the city’s cultural and economic center and is home to TRANSPO’s South Street Station, the main transit hub for bus service that connects residents to jobs, education, childcare, healthcare, recreation, and other important services. 

Public transportation is changing in South Bend. Over the past several months, members of DTSB’s leadership and board have attended multiple presentations and read the Connect Concepts Report to learn more about the future of bus transit in our community. After careful consideration, we’ve concluded that if funding remains at its current level, the ridership model (a transit plan that promotes consolidated, frequent-running bus routes) is the best solution for our community.  

We are encouraging all members of our community to visit the new transit plan website in order to review the proposals, take the survey, and make your voice heard on the future of public transportation in South Bend/Mishawaka.

If you’re interested in how DTSB came to the conclusion that the ridership model is what’s best for our region, please read below:   

  1. The ridership model emphasizes equity in access to opportunities. Bus service in South Bend-Mishawaka that maximizes ridership would increase the number of jobs that the average resident could reach in 45 minutes by 21% while the coverage model would result in 12% fewer jobs accessible to the average person within a 45-minute trip. Furthermore, the ridership model would specifically increase access to employment, educational opportunities, and health services to low-income people and people of color.

  2. Access to essential health services at Memorial Hospital - Beacon Health System, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, and St. Joseph County Veterans Affairs Clinic are significantly improved under the ridership model.  

  3. The ridership model would place 59% of all residents within a ½ mile walk of transit service that comes every 30 minutes or better, compared to 55% currently. The coverage model, on the other hand, would place 30% of all residents within a ½ mile of transit service that comes every 30 minutes or better, a 25% decrease compared to our current state. Even with the coverage model, we get worse coverage!

  4. Because buses carry more people than cars, transit that emphasizes ridership, can promote environmental sustainability by reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from Vehicle Miles Traveled.  

  5. The ridership model is aligned with our city’s stated land use policy to promote density by creating transit-friendly places that are liveable and walkable. 

The ridership model maximizes access to opportunity and freedom by providing high frequency service to those who need it most while attracting new riders who choose bus transit because of its convenient and frequent service. Under this model more routes would run every 30 minutes and three of the most heavily used routes would increase to every 15 minutes, a game-changer for attracting new riders. 

The current bus routes are designed to support a coverage model which provides very limited service to a large geographic area. While the buses may go to a lot of different places, the service is infrequent with very long wait times and one-way loops. In the coverage model, longer routes and wait times result in transportation becoming less efficient and less reliable, two things that majorly impact its usefulness for employees and patients who depend on fast, accurate transit to clock in or show up on time and return home within reason as well.  

While neither option, ridership or coverage, at current funding levels, perfectly addresses all of the community’s needs, we believe the ridership model best serves the community and a vision for a dense and vibrant downtown and can be supplemented with targeted programs like vanpooling and subsidized ridesharing, especially to peripheral industrial areas, to ensure all residents have a convenient, reliable way to get around town and access economic opportunity. Should additional funding be available, DTSB also supports increasing both the frequency of buses, number of routes, and the addition of more weekend service to provide a more equitable and optimal transit system.   

Again, we encourage everyone in our community to visit the new transit plan website in order to review the service models, take the survey, and make your voice heard on the future of public transportation in the greater South Bend region.  


Willow Wetherall 

Executive Director, Downtown South Bend, Inc.  

Mark McDonnell

Board President, Downtown South Bend, Inc.

Board Members

Chris Barth, Cressy Commercial Real Estate

Mary Downes, city resident

John Jensen, Bradley Company

Patrick McGuire, EnFocus

Danielle Meersman, Crowe LLP

Aaron Perri, City of South Bend Venues, Parks, and Arts

Tim Scott, city resident

Dan Smogar, Kruggel Lawton CPAs


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