Pace’s proposed 2023 budget calls for removing transfer fares for regular routes, making all current CTA passes valid on Pace, and disconnecting routes that have been officially suspended since COVID-19 hit Chicagoland at spring 2020.
Rhythm transfers currently work the same way as CTAs. Each passenger enjoys a paid transfer (in the case of Pace, 30 cents when transferring to a regular route and $2.80 when transferring to a premium route) and a free transfer within the exact two hours following payment of the original fare. Pace is offering to make transfers between regular routes free, while lowering the cost of transfers on premium routes to $2.50. The transfer between CTA and Pace would remain the same, $0.25 for the first transfer, with the second transfer being free.
The budget also includes making the 1-day and 3-day passes currently reserved for CTA valid on Pace, removing the CTA-only version of the 7-day pass, and retaining the CTA/Pace version of the 7-day pass. , which would now cost the same as the CTA-only version, saving its users $5. This would bring back the arrangement the two systems had in the 2000s, before Pace stopped accepting CTA passes in January 2009.
Pace is also proposing to permanently cancel 69 routes that have essentially been in limbo since the pandemic began. At the time, the transit agency suspended 75 routes and reduced service on 25 others. Throughout the summer of 2021, Pace rolled back six routes and reinstated service cuts to another five, but the rest of the service suspensions and reductions remained “suspended.” The budget would officially eliminate the 69 routes and make the service cuts permanent.
In most cases, the cuts would be for commuter rides to work and Metra line feeder rides, but a few of those rides offered scheduled service. However, Pace officials pointed out that Pace could end up serving the same areas in another way, even if it doesn’t necessarily use traditional fixed routes, as the transit agency seeks to revamp the system to match post-pandemic ridership patterns.
Beyond that, the budget focuses on continuing major projects, including the early reconstruction of the downtown commuter terminal in Harvey and major paratransit facilities in Calumet City and Schaumburg. Notably, Pace would not purchase electric buses this year, but it will continue to work to prepare the North Division garage, which serves Waukegan and surrounding suburbs, for the arrival of electric buses.
The proposed transfer changes would align regular routes with local routes, Pace’s term for routes that fall within the city limits of Aurora, Elgin, Joliet and Waukegan. Transfers on these routes have been free for decades.
Premium routes are the shoulder bus routes that use the Stevenson Expressway shoulder, as well as the stadium and Six Flags Great America express routes. Premium transfer fares apply to anyone changing from a regular route to a premium route (but, notably, not vice versa). $1.10.
Early in COVID, Pace made the Taxi Access Program, which subsidizes the cost of taxi rides for paratransit-eligible riders, free to riders. The budget proposes to bring back the passenger fare, but it would be $2.00 instead of the pre-pandemic $3.00.
During the Sept. 21 budget presentation to Pace’s board, chief budget analyst Melanie Castle said the pass changes would give customers “additional flexibility and affordability.” , adding that 3-day passes are ideal for weekend use or during shorter work. weeks.
Rhythm Board President Richard Kwasneski said he supported these changes because he believed they would help bring back more riders. “One of the things we’re trying to do is really rebuild the ridership, which will be totally different from what we had before, and I applaud the staff for their work, especially with the CTA, because there’s has a lot of connection points where, frankly, we could feed each other. So the ultimate goal of all of this – correct me if I’m wrong – is really to rebuild ridership, so that when the pandemic [stimulus] the dollars are gone, we are able to bring the ridership back close to where we were before.
For the most part, the suspended routes were for weekday 9-5 commuters. This includes feeder service to Metra lines (which have seen steady declines in ridership even before the pandemic), commuter-to-commuter expresses, and reverse shuttles. Shuttle Bug routes, which picked up reverse commuters from Metra stations and delivered them to suburban offices, would be cut permanently. Pace is currently piloting Van Go ridesharing services to perform the same function as shuttles without the expense of hiring drivers and operating larger buses.
Also on the list are several scheduled fixed-route services that have been cut due to falling ridership. Route 320 provided peak-hour service along the Oak Park and Forest Park portions of Madison Street, and all-day service between Forest Park Blue Line station and Maybrook Courthouse in neighboring Maywood. Route 372 provided a connection between the Metra Electric/Amtrak Homewood station and Pace’s Chicago Heights terminal, which also serves Flossmoor and Homewood. Route 608 served Schaumburg and Roselle, while Route 696 was the only Pace route serving Arlington Heights.
Route 754 provided peak express service between Lewis University, a Catholic university in the southwest suburb of Romeoville, and the Clinton Blue Line “L” station. It was designed as a faster, easier alternative to Metra’s Rock Island District line or BNSF line and transfer to Route 834.
Pace spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken pointed out that while the agency isn’t reviving those suspended routes, that doesn’t mean it won’t service the areas in another way. She noted that on Aug. 8, Pace launched Route 697, which serves a similar destination to the suspended Route 611 commuter shuttle and the portion of Route 696 between the Northwest Transportation Center and Harper College.
While Pace would phase out suburb-to-commuter expressways 896, 877, and 888, which used portions of the Tri-State Turnpike, Pace and the Illinois Turnpike are currently in the early stages of development. of infrastructure that would allow Pace to use longer portions of the corridor, linking the southern suburban transport hub of Harvey and the suburbs around O’Hare Airport. And the state’s latest capital plan allocates funds to improve I-290 shoulders to make them suitable for Pace express service. Suspended route Pace Route 757, an express shuttle between Oak Park, Forest Park and the northwest suburbs, used I-290 between Forest Park and Bensenville. However, this project is an even earlier stage than the Tri-State Tollway improvements.
At the Sept. 21 meeting, Pace executive director Melinda Metzger said the agency would investigate passengers, as well as “non-riders” and “other stakeholders” as part of its broader effort to revamp the system to meet post-pandemic ridership needs. “We understand that for some the routes as they existed in 2019 worked very well and change can be difficult, but our upcoming initiative means we listen to our riders as their needs have changed over the past few years. At the end of this work, we expect our newly designed service options to carry more people and provide more options than the routes we propose to eliminate.
The budget plans to spend $72.4 million on capital projects, with the bulk of the funding coming from various federal grants and allowances, and $11.35 million coming from state fuel tax revenues. $8.9 million would go to improving stations and passenger facilities, $61.5 million would go to supporting facilities and equipment, $2.2 million would go to signaling and communication equipment and 1, $8 million would go to rolling stock.
Facility improvements include $5.4 million to begin work on the Pace/Metra project to renovate the Harvey Transportation Center and adjacent Metra Power Line station; $1.46 million to perform architectural and engineering work on the Pulse 95th Street Arterial Rapid Transit bus corridor, and $60.4 million to prepare the North Division garage for electric buses.
Metzger said work on the second Pulse Corridor, the Pulse Dempster Corridor, is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.
The electronics side of the capital improvement expenditure primarily includes the installation of 100 on-board digital information displays that have been standard on Pulse buses on other buses in the system.
Pace budget manager Kristian Skogsbakken said the agency does not plan to purchase electric buses this year, but will instead focus on the aforementioned North Division garage upgrades and wait for more potential federal funding. are available.
Pace is holding in-person and virtual public hearings on the budget Oct. 20-28. The board is expected to vote on the final budget on November 9.