CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to expand the innovative ‘Bus on Shoulders’ program and make Illinois’ highways more environmentally-friendly, efficient and accessible. The legislation is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to drive Illinois’ economy forward and protect the environment by modernizing Illinois’ infrastructure.
“Bus on Shoulders has proven to be a creative approach and a green solution to cut down on commuting times, encourage the use of mass transit and improve access to jobs,” Governor Quinn said. “By making minimal investments in our existing infrastructure, we are providing big dividends for commuters and families throughout the region.”
House Bill 5664, sponsored by State Representative Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), makes permanent the successful ‘Bus on Shoulders’ pilot program and paves the way for the popular Pace service to expand to other parts of the Chicago expressway system as well as the Illinois Tollway.
Since Governor Quinn launched the program as an experimental service in 2011, ridership has jumped by 226 percent and on-time performance has dramatically improved on the Pace routes that utilize the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) shoulders during heavy congestion.
As part of Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, $9.5 million was allocated in 2011 to upgrade and prepare the I-55 shoulders to enable Pace routes 755 and 855, which connect the southwest suburbs, downtown Chicago and the Illinois Medical District, to use the inside inbound shoulder for the morning rush hour and inside outbound shoulder for the afternoon return trip. Also for the first time in the Chicago area, the Pace buses on these routes offered free Wi-Fi service. Since Governor Quinn launched Bus on Shoulders, average daily ridership on both Pace routes has grown from 302 to 985, with on-time performance jumping from 68 percent to 93 percent.
“When we began this project in 2011, we set out to do three things: increase ridership, improve on-time performance and operate safely,” Pace Chairman of the Board Richard Kwasneski said. “We've achieved all of these benchmarks and are grateful to Governor Quinn, the General Assembly, our project partners IDOT and RTA and our customers for their support throughout the planning and implementation process. Thanks to this legislation, we can take what we have learned on I-55 and bring express bus service to the shoulders of other highways and tollways in the region.”
In addition to making Bus on Shoulders a long-term solution to meeting the region’s highway and mass transit needs, the new law permits Pace to expand the program and include more routes. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is investing $362,631 to improve the shoulders from Kedzie Avenue to just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway (Interstate 90/94) so the existing service on I-55 can be extended approximately three miles east later this year. The department expects to complete a study by fall that will determine the scope of improvements needed to enable Pace to use the shoulders between Foster Avenue and Lake-Cook Road on the Edens Expressway (Interstate 94).
“This is an idea whose time has come,” Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Erica Borggren said. “We at IDOT have enjoyed a productive partnership with Pace during the start of Bus on Shoulders. We look forward to working together far into the future as we continue exploring new and innovative ways to build a world-class transportation system for the Chicago area.”
The Illinois Tollway’s $2.5 billion rebuild and widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (Interstate 90) will include wider shoulders to accommodate Pace buses from the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) to Barrington Road in 2016 and future service expansions to Rockford. As part of the 15-year, $12 billion Move Illinois Program, the project includes $240 million to integrate transit on I-90 in partnership with Pace. This investment marks the first time the in the Illinois Tollway’s history that the agency has built one of its roads specifically to accommodate transit. The Tollway also is designing the new Elgin O’Hare Western Access project to accommodate Bus on Shoulders.
“We know we can’t build our way out of congestion and that’s why we designed the new Jane Addams Memorial Tollway to accommodate transit and provide direct access to Pace bus service,” Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “By following Governor Quinn’s vision to integrate transit into our state’s roadways, we are maximizing our existing assets to meet the demand for safe and efficient travel on our roads now and into the future.”
Under the permanent program, buses will continue to use the shoulders as a passing lane only when traffic is moving slower than 35 mph. They are 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. Safety always will be a top priority of the program. The shoulders will always be available to motorists in the event of an emergency.
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