Galena plans expansion of free summer transit service

GALENA, Ill. — The City of Galena plans to once again offer a free public transportation service to its downtown district this summer, which officials hope will help curb ongoing parking problems in the area.

City Council members this week unanimously approved the continuation and expansion of Galena Free Ride in partnership with Jo Daviess County Transit. The agreement must still must be approved by the Jo Daviess County Board.

“I’m really happy to see this expanding, and I hope that based on the success, we can continue to do that in the future,” Council Member Pam Bernstein said. “I think it’s one good solution to the parking problem.”

The city piloted the transit service in 2021 after residents expressed frustration with a lack of parking options in the city. The service operated on Saturdays from Sept. 4 through Oct. 30, with the exception of the Galena Country Fair and Halloween weekends.

This year, officials plan to offer the transit service on both Saturdays and Sundays from June 4 through Oct. 30, again excluding Galena Country Fair weekend. It would operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Council documents state that a single 14-passenger Jo Daviess County Transit bus would follow a route with stops at the Depot Park parking lot on the east side of the Galena River, the Green Street Plaza near City Hall and the Meeker Street parking lot. The round trip is expected to be made every 20 minutes.

A total of 1,225 riders used the Galena Free Ride service over seven weeks in 2021, with an average ridership of 175 per day.

Council Member Jerry Westemeier said he hoped the expansion of the service would lead to a significant boost in ridership this summer.

“Hopefully, this’ll get more people to be parking over in the Depot Park lot and the Meeker Street lot,” he said. “… It’s not going to be the catchall, but it’s going to help relieve some parking problems.”

City Administrator Mark Moran said city officials once again are working with Galena Country Tourism to create marketing materials to promote the transit service.

“You’ll see this year, now that we have more time, we’ll be (emphasizing) the branding of Galena Free Ride,” he said.

Council documents state that the total cost to the city for the 21 weeks of transit service would be $5,460. City officials intend to use money from the Parking and Shuttle Fund to cover the cost.