Lake County, Pace in talks to create countywide bus service for seniors, disabled
After years of discussion and coordination, Lake County is headed toward a borderless, countywide paratransit service.
Ride Lake County, targeted for a May 1, 2022 debut, would consolidate operations currently provided by 14 individual services.
The intent is a single consistent system for seniors 60 and over and people with disabilities to get to work, grocery stores, medical appointments and other destinations throughout the county.
A key step was taken last week when the Lake County Board directed the county Division of Transportation to negotiate an agreement with Pace, the suburban bus service, to establish Ride Lake County.
Lake County has programmed up to $1 million in each of the next five years, subject to an annual county board appropriation, to operate the service. The actual annual cost is expected to be about $610,000 to $640,000, assuming federal funds are available.
With a commitment of operating subsidies from Pace and continued success in securing federal funding, "We feel Ride Lake County will have sufficient financial resources to meet the increased demand that will result from an expansion of this magnitude," Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart wrote in a letter to Rocky Donahue, Pace executive director.
County officials said 113 people participated in a public meeting Aug. 4 and 96 mostly positive written responses were received in a two-week comment period.
The direction to negotiate with PACE followed discussions in early September by the county board's public works, planning and transportation committee, which recommended approval to the full board.
"This has been on our radar since I've been on the board," said Vice Chair Linda Pedersen, who was elected in 2008 to represent District 1, which includes Antioch and Old Mill Creek, and portions of Fox Lake and Lake Villa.
"It's very exciting and been a long time coming," she added.
In 2008, the county board created the paratransit coordinator position to work toward a long-term goal of developing a countywide paratransit bus service. Ride Lake County West and Ride Lake County Central were established as a first-step.
Pace provides $736,000 in annual subsidies to townships and municipalities that operate 14 shuttle and Dial-a-Ride services in Lake County. Pace is being asked to reinvest that amount, and additional funding it may have available, into Ride Lake County.
"I think one of our goals was to create access and availability to a lot more people in the county," said John Wasik, a committee member from Grayslake.
County officials say Pace has projected about 59,000 annual trips for the consolidated service. Details are expected to be finalized for county review and approval early next year.