The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) System is extensive, dependable and well-used by University of Illinois students and faculty. In fact, the system serves more than 40,000 students and the broader community, and provides more than 16 million rides annually. Two-thirds of riders on the local transit system are students, faculty and staff.
Over the last 15 years, transit ridership has steadily grown and more riders are expected based on the propensity toward transit in young population groups. High-frequency buses serve both the campus area and the Champaign and Urbana downtowns. Students pay a campus transportation fee of $62 per semester for unlimited transit use which also funds SafeRides, an MTD demand-response service for late-night travel. A separate budget funds transit on behalf of faculty and staff. Students and faculty can just show their student IDs to ride transit. Because students are not permitted to have cars on campus for their first and second years, and parking is quite expensive, there is high demand for transit by students. The walkability of the community also supports transit use.
Many students take Amtrak to Chicago for weekend trips home or for other leisure travel, and faculty/staff regularly use Amtrak for daytrips for meetings and professional development. The University of Illinois system prefers its employees use Amtrak for travel between Champaign and Chicago. On the Illini and Saluki routes to Carbondale, Champaign is second busiest station after Chicago. On the long-distance City of New Orleans route, Champaign is the fourth busiest station overall.
According to the 2016 Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Coalition (MIRPC) survey of Illinois university and college passengers, more than a third (35 percent) said they have taken the train at least once during the past 12 months and a tenth of Illinois respondents said the train is their primary travel mode to/from school and their permanent residence. Half of respondents said they would be more likely to take the train if more frequent service was available; 19 percent would be “much more likely,” and 31 percent would be “somewhat more likely” to ride Amtrak.
When college students were asked in the MIRPC survey how much access to public transportation will affect a decision to stay in the Midwest after graduating, 46 percent said it would be a factor: 27 percent said “somewhat” of a factor, 12 percent said “quite a bit”, and seven percent said “very much.”