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By ALAN J. ORTBALS
    For more than three decades, Madison County Transit has provided a diverse array of transportation services for residents of Madison County and beyond. With bus routes, paratransit service for the elderly and disabled, a free carpool/vanpool program known as RideFinders, and the 130 miles of scenic bikeways in the MCT Trails system, MCT is enhancing the communities of Madison County and improving the quality of life.
    MCT’s bus service, for example, provides residents with access to a myriad of destinations including employment, training, education, shopping and medical services. It’s particularly proud of the service it provides to connect employers and employees.
    MCT began serving Gateway Commerce Center in 2003 and later added Lakeview Commerce Center. Employees from throughout Madison County can take the bus to and from work for as little as $50 per month. MCT has also opened the door to St. Clair County residents as the district provides service from the Emerson Park Metro Link station to the commerce centers. With 73 trips each week day, 38 trips each Saturday and 25 trips each Sunday, employees have bus access to work in the commerce centers seven days a week and nearly 24 hours per day.
    Gateway and Lakeview are only two of the major trip generators served by MCT. Bus routes also serve SIUE, Lewis and Clark Community College, SWIC-Granite City, Downtown St. Louis, and Madison County’s governmental offices, to name a few.
    In addition to bus service, MCT operates RideFinders for the St. Louis region, working with more than 900 employers to promote and organize carpools and vanpools. Vanpools are a viable transportation option for areas that are not served by public transit or during times when transit isn’t available.
    “Madison County Transit plays an important role in strengthening the business community,” said MCT Director of Marketing & Planning SJ Morrison. “Bringing residents to employment opportunities is one of our primary objectives but creating access to commerce and other services is a critical component as well.”
    After the first of the year MCT will be introducing a mobile ticketing option — the first in the region. Riders will be able to purchase a monthly or two-hour ride pass on their phone and scan it when they board the bus.
    Also coming this year, MCT will complete work on the $6 million multi-county MCT Troy-O’Fallon Trail. The construction and maintenance of the 7-mile asphalt trail is a partnership between MCT and the Metro East Park & Recreation District. The trail begins near the I-55 frontage road, at the southern end of the MCT Goshen Trail and extends south to Kyle Road in O’Fallon. The trail features four bridges, including a 200-foot span over a creek, railroad tracks and Lochmann Road. The project is scheduled to be complete by summer 2019.