Pace to expand I-55 Bus on Shoulders service on May 6


April 30, 2013 10:00:00 AM
Media Relations Office: (847) 228-4222

More rush hour service, new midday and late evening trips and faster travel times among highlights

In response to significant ridership growth and increased demand for service, Pace will expand its popular Bus on Shoulders service on Monday, May 6. The improvements to routes 755 and 855 include new trips during the AM and PM rush hours and midday, as well as a special later evening trip on Route 755 that will serve some Metra Heritage Corridor stations on an on-demand basis. New stop alignments during the PM rush are expected to reduce travel times for many commuters on the routes.

Service changes for Route 755 Plainfield IMD West Loop Express include a doubling of the number of rush hour trips from two to four in each direction. A new, midday round trip has been added based on passenger requests. A late evening trip has also been added to shuttle passengers to the Pace Old Chicago Park-n-Ride in Bolingbrook and then make stops upon request at the Metra Heritage Corridor stations in Lemont, Lockport and at Joliet Union Station. Existing reverse commute trips traveling outbound during the AM rush and inbound during the PM rush will be eliminated due to low ridership. Pace is working with affected commuters to start a vanpool.

The changes for Route 855 Plainfield East Loop Express include three new AM rush hour trips (for a total of ten), two new PM rush hour trips (for a total of nine), a new midday round trip, and a later evening trip. A new alternating stop alignment on some outbound trips is expected to reduce travel times.

"We believed that if we could work with our partners at IDOT and the RTA to use the shoulders of I-55 for our express routes that on-time performance and travel times would improve, leading to increased ridership," said Pace Chairman of the Board Richard Kwasneski. "Thats exactly whats happened, and with no negative impact on safety."

"Pace usage has been outstanding during the bus on shoulders project, and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is thrilled to learn that strong demand for the expanded service indicates that ridership numbers should continue to rise," said Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. "This is a win-win for riders and Pace."

Since shoulder operations began in mid-November, 2011, ridership has grown significantly on both routes. In March, 2011, Route 755 carried an average of 40 passengers per day. As of March, 2013, that number leapt to 137 passengers per day, an increase of over 240%. Route 855 jumped from averaging 281 passengers per day in March, 2011, to 451 per day in March, 2013- an increase of over 61%. On-time performance for the routes improved from roughly 68% in 2011 to a range between 90-93% as of late 2012.

"The RTA is extremely pleased with the success of the Bus-on-Shoulder project," said RTA Chairman John S. Gates, Jr. "When the RTA began its work with Pace and IDOT on this project, we envisioned having a system that would not only provide efficiencies for riders but also be an environmentally-friendly transit service. We achieved that goal, enhancing each customers experience."

"We modeled our program guidelines after similar bus on shoulder operations that have worked well in other regions and then worked with our partners to tailor these regulations for our area," said Kwasneski. "Were committed to safety for our passengers and the other vehicles on the highway, and that is reflected in an excellent safety record for these routes."

Buses are permitted to use only select sections of the I-55 shoulder when traffic flows at 35 miles per hour or less. Buses in the shoulder are limited to travelling 15 miles per hour faster than the flow of traffic with a maximum speed in the shoulder of 35 miles per hour. If a car has a breakdown or there is any other obstruction in the shoulder, the bus slows down, merges safely into the regular traffic lanes, then back into the shoulder once the obstruction is passed.

The service expansion is funded through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program, administered by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The three-year, federal CMAQ grant covers 80% of the costs for expanded service and marketing at roughly $719,000 per year with Pace covering the remaining 20%; about $180,000 per year.

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