Pace proposed bus cuts will hurt homeless, disabled people, agency says

  • Despite an influx of capital dollars, Pace is short on operating funds for 2020 and proposes canceling or reducing eight bus routes. One recommended elimination is Route 540 Farnsworth Avenue that stops at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora.

      Despite an influx of capital dollars, Pace is short on operating funds for 2020 and proposes canceling or reducing eight bus routes. One recommended elimination is Route 540 Farnsworth Avenue that stops at Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/28/2019 5:30 AM

When state lawmakers passed new fees and a gas tax in June to fund a capital program, the bad news was sweetened by the expectation it would fix roads, repair infrastructure and bolster transit.

That's why Pace's proposal to cancel or reduce service on eight bus routes in Aurora, Crystal Lake, Fox Lake, Lisle, McHenry and other suburbs dismays some commuters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's going to be a huge issue," said Frank Samuel, co-CEO at the Pioneer Center, which serves developmentally disabled adults and homeless people in McHenry. He said many of the center's clients use Pace Bus 806/Crystal Lake/Fox Lake, a route recommended to be eliminated.

The decision is not final and riders can speak up at hearings or online before the Pace board votes on the budget, spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said.

Pace's 2020 budget proposes "taking some of our worst-performing routes and redistributing the resources into growth areas" like the popular I-55 Bus on Shoulder, an express service that's sometimes standing room only, Skogsbakken said.

That said, Pace is working to offer alternatives like van pools or ride-share programs so riders aren't stranded, she said.

"The loss of the Pace 806 route would severely impact (clients') abilities to access and receive services and shelter," Samuel said. The center offers programs ranging from job training to medical care.

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"The reality is Routes 806 and 807 (serving McHenry County) are performing poorly" in terms of ridership, Skogsbakken said. "The typical fixed-route transit model is not working great up there."

What about the $228 million windfall Pace will receive from the state's new, multiyear capital program? "The capital infusion is amazing," she said, but it's not operating revenue.

On the operating side, Pace ridership is expected to dip by 1.7% in 2020, and sales taxes, which fund transit, are "slow growing."

"It's not just us, ridership is a problem nationally," Skogsbakken said. Reasons include the growth of ride-providers like Uber and Lyft, more people working at home, and suburban corporations such as McDonald's moving to Chicago.

Other buses Pace proposes to eliminate are: Route 186 East Lisle Evening Service; Route 187 West Lisle Evening Service; Route 540 Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora, which stops at Rush Copley Medical Center; and Route 669 Western Springs-Indian Head Park.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pace also intends to eliminate Saturday service on: Route 509 Joliet/Fairmont; Route 559 -- Route 59, which stops at Fox Valley Mall; and Route 570 Fox Lake -- College of Lake County.

To post a comment on the route eliminations, go to http://www.pacebus.com/sub/news_events/public_hearings_comments.asp

Got a comment or transportation question? Drop an email to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

Upcoming

Pace budget hearings occurring this week include: 4:30 to 5:30 Monday at the Crystal Lake city hall, 100 W. Woodstock St.; 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the DuPage County Government Center, 421 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton; and 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at Pace headquarters, 550 W. Algonquin Road, Arlington Heights.

You should know

Two U.S. lawmakers got testy recently over transportation issues affecting the suburbs.

Sen. Dick Durbin jabbed the Canadian National Railway for allowing its freights to delay Amtrak trains serving Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Trains heading north from U of I have on-time performances as low as 6%, while SIU trains are only slightly better at 17%, Durbin said in a letter to Amtrak urging the railroad to join him in lobbying CN to shape up.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago is steamed at the Federal Aviation Administration for what he calls an "appalling" laxness regarding jet noise affecting residents near O'Hare International Airport. From failing to offer explanations to delays in reporting on noise, the FAA's response has been "completely unacceptable," Quigley said, urging the agency's new administrator, Stephen Dickson, to be more proactive.

Haunted trains

Metra is making it easier for some commuters seeking a quick return home on Halloween. The railroad will provide at least one extra outbound train starting at 2:25 p.m. Thursday on the BNSF and all Union Pacific lines. For schedule information, go to metrarail.com.

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