PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria Charter Coach Company leaders are thankful to finally see the number of passengers ramping back up.

During the week of Aug. 8, the company had more than 5,000 passengers from Chicago to Urbana of students heading back to the University of Illinois. During the beginning stages of the pandemic, however, the company wasn’t having much luck with its mode of transportation.

Bill Winkler, the company president, said two days after Illinois shut down when COVID-19 hit, sales immediately dropped to zero. Now, Winkler is excited to see riders more comfortable on buses, including students from Bradley University and Illinois State University.

With students heading back to school, Winkler said the universities and local high schools utilize the charter buses for sporting events, giving his employees time to get back to work.

“Last year, you could have school on zoom,” said Winkler, “But this year, everybody has to come back, and that’s good for Peoria Charter.”

Winkler said Peoria Charter is trying to make its way to the Chicago area market. He said they even already have two buses that stop in the city daily, but he has plans to bring more to Chicago in the future.