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Page last updated on October 6, 2022 at 12:38 pm

Just as I love this City, I love many of the stories of this City. They speak of ambition and vision. They speak of people that love the place they live. They speak of always becoming better and sometimes they remind us that we need to learn from our past and become better in the present and the future. The story of Bloomington transit has all of those things - vision, ambition, and as we move to a hybrid fleet and reducing emissions, the desire to do better by the City we love. 

First, an acknowledgment about our history and the many people that have called this area home. We recognize that the city of Bloomington sits on Native land. The city as well as City administrative buildings are on the traditional homelands of the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee people and we acknowledge they are past, present, and future caretakers of this land. 

We also acknowledge that much of the economic progress and development in Indiana and specifically Bloomington resulted from the unpaid labor and forced servitude of People of Color - specifically enslaved African labor. 

We acknowledge that this land remains home to and a site of gathering and healing for many indigenous and other people of color and commit to the work necessary to create and promote a more equitable and just Bloomington.

We are here to celebrate 40 years of Bloomington Transit. That’s forty years of getting people to work, school, and home. Forty years of delivering people to businesses, parks, and the public library. Forty years of getting people to doctor’s appointments, meetings, and events. Forty years of innovation and adaptation, especially in recent years as BT adapted to the COVID pandemic. 

Our public transit goes back even farther, before the 1982 ordinance that established the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation. Thanks to some folks at IU that studied transportation and geography, unanimous city council appropriation of funds, some small Mercedes Benz buses, the annexation of north and west side neighborhoods, and most importantly, community need, mass transit in Bloomington was born in 1973. It grew steadily over the next near-decade with Area 10 Agency on Aging adding the rural transit system in 1981. By 1982, busing in Bloomington was well-established and the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation was born. It was organized and standardized with codes that still guide it today. The growth and meeting of community need that was established then continued and continues now. 

In 1988 ​​Bloomington Transit added a long-awaited bus service for people with disabilities, and in 1992 Rural Transit added wheelchair lifts. These acts made busing much more accessible. By September of 1997, more people rode Bloomington Transit buses that month than in any other month in the company's 24-year history. Something born small had become an established system accessible to more residents and reaching more people and businesses. 

With progress comes responsibility and Bloomington Transit began to look forward and inward, how could they continue to serve Bloomington while becoming better stewards of the environment? In 1989 they added bike racks to several buses so that residents could combine forms of transportation, reducing their carbon footprints. In 2007 the City added two hybrid buses. This was an important step that put us on a path we are still traveling - a path to a cleaner and more resilient future in which transportation that reduces single vehicles on the roads is also low to zero emission. 

Bloomington Transit and the City of Bloomington have traveled that path with intention. We adopted our first Climate Action Plan that specifies scores of ambitious goals and actions and has the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. We have funded that plan annually with $1.6MM for its implementation. And we added nearly $4MM annually for public transit enhancements. Added Sunday Service, Establishing an East-West Express Transit Line, Enhancing Para-Transit & Microtransit options, Increasing service frequency, subsidizing ridership, and piloting a Park & Ride Pilot Program. 

And, Bloomington Transit has been awarded $7 million in federal funds to add new electric buses to its fleet. This will bring Bloomington, the only city in Indiana to receive funding for new buses, eight zero emission Battery Electric Buses that will be used for transit expansion as well as toward the BT Board of Director's goal to transition the bus fleet to 60% Battery Electric by 2030.

So as we look back and celebrate the last 40 years (and more) of Bloomington Transit, let’s look forward and celebrate what is on the horizon. Mass transit in Bloomington started with smart planning, meeting community needs, and realizing a vision and it continues even as needs change, the climate changes, and we refine our vision. Here is to the next 40 years.



Buses started in response to need and in the wake of some smart planning. In 1973, a professor of transportation (yes, there is such a thing) from what was then the Indiana University Business School, and a geography professor joined forces and wrote a well-researched forward-thinking plan for mass transportation in Bloomington. 

This plan was timely and necessary because in January of 1973 the city council unanimously approved the appropriation of $229,606 for the creation of a six-bus mass transit system, which they wanted to be in operation by February 1. Mass transit was born in Bloomington. 

In March 1973 the first Mercedes Benz bus arrived in Bloomington. This was a small bus that could hold only about a dozen passengers. The bus system opened in April of 1973, just a few months after the February goal, and ridership was free for the first month - just as it is today. The first month saw 45 riders and as of May 1 buses began charging riders. 

As cities do, Bloomington had been growing. The northside Matlock Heights neighborhood had been annexed into the City in November of 1971 and in July of 1973, the City began providing bus service to the newly annexed west side subdivision and industrial plants. This was the first major expansion of transit routes - less than 4 months after the transit system began. From there, progress continued. 

In 1981 Area 10 Agency on Aging created the rural transit system for bus transportation to link Bloomington to Ellettsville and Spencer,  as well as rural areas in Monroe and Owen counties. 

In 1982, the date we are here to celebrate today, an ordinance was enacted to establish the Bloomington Public Transportation Corporation. Just shy of ten years after bus service in Bloomington began, it was organized and standardized with codes that still guide it today.