Pace reverses course, plans to keep 8 threatened bus routes for now

Pace will spare eight bus routes slated to be canceled or downsized after getting a thumb's down from riders, officials said Monday.

"We hear them," Pace spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said. "We will slow down and try to find a solution that preserves access to public transit while being fiscally responsible."

Among the routes recommended for cancellation was Pace Bus 806/Crystal Lake/Fox Lake. The potential loss of that route drew protests from the Pioneer Center, a facility serving developmentally disabled adults and homeless people in McHenry.

"We'll go back to the drawing board," Daly Skogsbakken said, adding that Pace had received feedback from hearings around the region and from riding the routes to get reaction from passengers.

Officials announced the proposed reductions in October, explaining it wasn't to balance the 2020 budget but because the eight routes serving Aurora, Crystal Lake, Fox Lake, Lisle, McHenry and other suburbs had low ridership. The intent was to redistribute funds from the underperforming routes to popular services such as the I-55 Bus on Shoulder program.

Other buses no longer in the crosshairs 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.

Also spared is 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.

As it re-evaluates the routes, Pace will explore alternatives, including ride-providers like Uber or Lyft, dial-a-ride services or merging buses, Daly Skogsbakken said.

The Pace board is expected to vote on its 2020 budget - without any service cuts or fare hikes - on Nov. 13.

Transit agencies are watching their operating dollars but are experiencing a windfall after the General Assembly increased gas taxes and other fees to fund infrastructure.

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