CHICAGO – November 7, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn, joined by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Regional Transportation Authority and Pace officials, today announced the Nov. 14 launch of the region’s first Bus on Shoulder program, a two-year pilot project that allows Pace buses on the Stevenson Expressway’s inside shoulder during heavy congestion. The joint effort of IDOT, RTA and Pace, made possible by a $35 million commitment from Governor Quinn to improve the Stevenson Expressway, is designed to ease congestion, improve schedule reliability, and reduce harmful emissions while offering free Wi-Fi service, a first for transit riders in the Chicago area.
“This program will give commuters a safe, reliable and convenient transportation alternative,” Governor Quinn said. “The buses will help ease congestion and improve air quality while keeping riders connected and productive with free Wi-Fi.”
Earlier this year, Governor Quinn signed legislation that allows Pace buses on the shoulders of designated highways. Under the new Bus on Shoulder program, Pace routes 755 and 855, which connect the southwest suburbs, downtown Chicago and the Illinois Medical District, will be allowed to use the inside inbound shoulder for the morning rush hour and inside outbound shoulder for the afternoon return trip, saving commuters valuable minutes when traffic is at its peak. The service, patterned after similar, successful programs in cities such as Minneapolis, Miami and Cincinnati, also will provide free Wi-Fi to customers.
“The RTA commends Pace and IDOT for their extraordinary efforts leading to the launch of our region’s first Bus on Shoulder project. Our agency is thrilled to have led planning efforts in a successful partnership with these agencies,” said RTA Board Chairman John S. Gates, Jr. “We thank Governor Quinn for his support. Commuters will be the beneficiaries of this new cost effective service that we anticipate will save them time, improve service reliability and reduce traffic congestion.”
As part of Governor Quinn’s directive to expand green transportation practices, a $35 million IDOT project this summer to resurface the Stevenson Expressway also improved the shoulders between Interstate 355 and Kedzie Avenue in anticipation of the Bus on Shoulder program. The additional $938,000 cost for items such as extra signs and pavement markings will be offset by federal funds awarded to projects that reduce congestion and improve air quality.
“Our program is modeled after similar operations in other cities that have existed for many years to provide safe, efficient and money-saving service to commuters,” said Pace Board Chairman Richard Kwasneski. “We’ll work with our partners to study information gathered during this pilot project to potentially bring the benefits of bus on shoulder operations to other highways and tollways in our region.”
Safety will be a top priority of the program. Buses can use the shoulders as a passing lane only when traffic is moving slower than 35 mph. They will be restricted to traveling no more than 15 mph over the top speed of vehicles in the expressway lanes and never greater than 35 mph. Pace cannot use the shoulders if they are already being used for snow removal, vehicle breakdowns and traffic stops by law enforcement. The shoulders will always be available to motorists in the event of an emergency. The Illinois State Police will assist IDOT through extra patrols and issuing citations for unauthorized use of the shoulders.
“We are excited to participate in this innovative program and are taking every step to maintain safety on the Stevenson Expressway,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. “We hope this small change will produce big dividends in reduced congestion and improved travel times for all commuters.”
For more information on the program, including a short video explaining how the service will work, visit http://www.dot.il.gov/busonshoulder/index.html.