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Community planning efforts to establish a Champaign County rural public transit system have been ongoing since the 1970s. A Rural Transportation Steering Committee was established in 1995 and operated through 1997. In 1995, a preliminary needs assessment identified a significant need for rural public transportation and a more comprehensive study was completed in 2004 which concluded that there was a current need for rural public transportation and that need will likely grow as the population ages.

On August 10, 2005, the President signed into law the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) which authorized the provision of funding to States for the purpose of supporting public transportation in rural areas with populations of less than 50,000. In August 2007, the Illinois Department of Transportation – Division of Public and Intermodal Transportation (IDOT-DPIT) notified the Champaign County Board of available funding for rural public transportation. In 2008, Champaign County started the Transportation Coordination Primer Process (as a requirement from IDOT to receive the allocated funding) which involved local stakeholders working together to identify rural transportation needs and resources and select a rural public transportation operator at the end of the process. In 2011, after completing the Transportation Coordination Primer Process, CRIS Rural Mass Transit District (CRIS-RMTD) was identified as the most suited operator for Champaign County.

CRIS began operating rural general public transportation in Champaign County in February 2011 with hours of operation of Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Initially, service was provided in the northeast quadrant (Village of Rantoul and surrounding areas) of the county where surveys demonstrated the highest need for rural transit service. In May 2013, CRIS expanded service to the entire rural Champaign County and service hours were extended to Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

In February 2014, CRIS-RMTD decided to focus on providing service only in Vermilion County. On October 1, 2014, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) began operating service under the name Champaign County Area Rural Transit System (C-CARTS). C-CARTS provides general public rural transportation in Champaign County, Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

In September 2016, C-CARTS signed a contract with the Village of Rantoul and started providing fixed route service five days a week in the Village of Rantoul. Input from the public, employers, and employees helped create the deviated fixed-route system called Eagle Express. The service operated by running two vans in a loop around the community during morning (5:00 am to 8:00 am) and evening (3:00 pm to 6:00 pm) peak commuting hours. In 2018, based on the success of the service, C-CARTS and the Village redesign the service leading to the existing route structure. The Eagle Express currently uses three vans running in individual routes, in a service designed to minimize trip lengths and facilitate transfers.

In response to the COVID pandemic, C-CARTS suspended fares in April 2020 to minimize interactions between passengers and drivers, as well as respond to the economic impacts of COVID on passengers. While transit ridership was reduced by up to 80% in other parts of the country, C-CARTS saw a ridership increase of over 40% during this time. Fares were re-implemented in August 2021.”