ABC 20 Streaming LiveSpotlight 20Pump PatrolRaw NewsFriday Night HangtimePay It Forward


MONDAY: Cloudy with light snow early this afternoon. High: 36. Winds: Southwest 5-10 mph.

MONDAY NIGHT: Mostly cloudy. Low: 32. Winds: Northwest 10-15 mph.

TUESDAY: Partly Sunny. ...

more »

Advertise with us!

Search Results

The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Waste Watch: A Ride on Your Dime Part 1

Watch Vince DeMentri's interview with Frank Squires in its entirety.
Watch Part 2 of this special report.


The Springfield Mass Transit District spends tens of millions of dollars every year to run a transit system that struggles to get buses just half full--and you, the taxpayer, are footing most of SMTD's funding.

ABC Newschannel 20's Vince DeMentri investigated how much money SMTD brings in from its riders. Last year, it barely made enough money to pay for fuel for just half of its buses.

Vince and one of our photographers rode five different buses on random days and at random times.

On a Friday morning, the ride started off with 20 people. Ten minutes into the ride, half the riders--all students--got off at Lanphier High School. By the end of the route, six riders were left. That was the busiest bus we rode.

We rode two mid-morning and afternoon buses. They never had more than 10 people at one time, and one bus was half-empty halfway through the trip.

The historic bus gave us and two other people a tour of the Lincoln sites.

A Saturday bus started off with six passengers. Less than halfway through the trip, there were just three.

"I don't see many people hopping on right now," one rider said. "It's just three of us are on the bus."

We asked bus rider Dennis Burt what he would do if he didn't have the buses.

"I'd be trapped in my home," he said.

Burt said he does not have a car. That was a common theme among riders we spoke with on the buses. But that's a small sect of the overall Springfield population.

If you crunch the SMTD's own data, this is what you come up with.

  • From 2010 to 2012, just 8 percent of the SMTD's budget came from the fare box.
  • Projections through 2016 show exactly the same 8 percent revenue.
  • More than 90 percent of SMTD's budget comes from federal, state, and Sangamon County taxes.

Clearly, there is a need for mass transit here. But does it need to be this large?

"From everything I've looked at, it appears that taxpayers are paying for a service that, at least in Springfield, is a failure."

That's the statement we posed to SMTD head honcho Frank Squires. After a pause, he replied.

"I've got your answer," he said. "You ready for my answer? I don't believe that the service for SMTD is a failure. We have around 13,000 seats available every day, plus or minus the size of the buses in service, and we serve about 7,500 to 7,900 people every day."

According to SMTD's own data, if it averaged 7,500 passengers a day Monday through Friday, there would have been more than 1.9 million riders last year. If they averaged 7,900 riders a day, that would have put them over 2 million in a year.

Their own stats show that in 2012, they serviced 1,870,000 riders--and that includes Saturday service.

All told, there were nearly 4 million seats available for the year.

Squires said SMTD has no concrete research that breaks down who they cater to, nor does it have research that tells them how to increase ridership. But Squires has hatched his own plan to get more people to ride the bus: by showcasing their buses during special events, like the downtown Christmas bus.

"Start people to look at it differently and say, 'Oh, it's there to ride, and I'll start to use it,'" Squires said.

"That's the plan?," we asked him.

"That's one of the ways we're using to bring the buses out," he said.

Taxpayers are being hit three times to pay for the SMTD. In 2012, the budget was $12.6 million. Roughly $8 million came from state taxes, $1 million from federal taxes, and $2 million from taxes you paid if you live in Sangamon County. Another $130,000 came from other tax revenues.

In total, that means a system used by a minority of the population is more than 90 percent paid for by your taxes.

After two years of flat ridership, 2012 showed a slight increase. This year, taxpayers will be buying the SMTD $3 million worth of new buses, and spending nearly $2 million to equip the fleet with GPS and a mobile phone app so riders can keep track of where buses are.
Watch Vince DeMentri's interview with Frank Squires in its entirety.
Watch Part 2 of this special report.

  • WICS :: News - Traffic


    Get up to the minute traffic reports from WICS NewsChannel 20!
  • WICS :: News - Road Trippin News

    Road Trippin News

    Missed a Road Trippin segment that aired in the news? Check it out here!
  • WICS :: News - Health Matters

    Health Matters

    Featuring news segment videos about health.
  • WICS :: News - In The Kitchen

    In The Kitchen

    Watch the area's best chefs whip up their tastiest creations. See them in action and get their recipes to try at home. 
  • WICS :: News - Behind The Headlines

    Behind The Headlines

    Get Behind the Headlines commentary with Mark Hyman.
  • WICS :: News - Ready, Set, Shred

    Ready, Set, Shred

    In an exclusive eight-week investigation, ABC Newschannel 20 digs deep into the Springfield police document shredding scandal.
  • WICS :: News - Pay it Forward

    Pay it Forward

    Pay It Forward... because sometimes people need a little extra help.
  • WICS :: News - Ask the Expert

    Ask the Expert

    Do you need expert advice? Here's your chance to ask our experts!
  • WICS :: News - Your Voice. Your Future.

    Your Voice. Your Future.

    As the country faces challenges from federal budget issues to jobs and national debt, your voice is critical to the future.
  • WICS :: News - Road Trippin

    Road Trippin

    Come Road Trippin' with us! Check out all the great attractions in your area!
  • WICS :: News - Pump Patrol

    Pump Patrol

    Check out the ABC Newschannel 20's Pump Patrol to find the lowest prices, report low prices and get gas saving tips.

  • WICS :: News - Spotlight 20

    Spotlight 20

    Local organizations and community leaders tell us about events in central Illinois.
  • WICS :: News - Raw News

    Raw News

    Watch extra news footage, full interviews, and extended stories that didn't make it on air.  "Raw News" may include content that is not suitable for children and is intended for mature audiences only.
  • WICS :: News - On the Farm

    On the Farm

    Whether it's topical segments on what's happening on local farms to commodity prices, we have the world of central Illinois agriculture covered.
  • WICS :: News - Fugitive Files

    Fugitive Files

  • WICS :: News - Home Room

    Home Room

    When's the next school board meeting? Where's the basketball game? What's for lunch today? Do we have a snow day tomorrow? We have all the information you need for a successful school year--no pencil or ...
  • WICS :: News - No Text Zone

    No Text Zone

    Texting while driving kills thousands of people each year. Many more are seriously injured.  Keep central Illinois roads safe by taking the "No Text Zone" pledge.
  • WICS :: News - Business News

    Business News

    Stay up-to-date on the biggest business stories from around the nation.
  • WICS :: News - Pet of the Week

    Pet of the Week

    The cutest video you'll see anywhere! You won't be able to resist these adorable friends who need someone to love them.
  • WICS :: News - Waste Watch

    Waste Watch

    How are your tax dollars being spent? Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments are using your money wisely...or wasting it.
  • WICS :: News - Washington Times

    Washington Times

    Politics, Breaking News, US and World News.
  • WICS :: News - Health Care Reform

    Health Care Reform

    The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act sparked a new battle. Check here daily for the latest developments, locally and across the country.

more »

Tonight on WICS

The Bachelor

The investigation into a pool shark's death reveals that the killer may have had paranormal powers.

Newschannel 20 at 10

Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Celebrity guests and comedy skits.


Complete Schedule »

WICS Pay It Forward
Buzzed Driving Prevention PSA
WICS Cheers For The Years
Jimmy Kimmel
WICS Storm Team