Borderless paratransit services throughout Lake County expected to debut May 1
A pending agreement with Pace Suburban Bus for the first time would provide borderless paratransit services throughout Lake County.
Beginning May 1, Ride Lake County will become an umbrella service combining subsidies now paid to various communities and townships into a single countywide bus service for riders 60 and over and those with disabilities.
The Lake County Board is expected to authorize the agreement, which outlines terms and conditions, at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Ride Lake County will be funded with a combination of county, Pace and federal funding without contributions from municipalities or townships, and the agreement will have to be renewed each year.
Service cost projections from May 1 to the end of the year are estimated at $1.7 million. County costs in the next fiscal year beginning Dec. 1 and beyond are projected to be in the range of $600,000 to $1.1 million.
Addressing a patchwork of paratransit services to provide a standard option without geographical boundaries for riders to get to jobs, schools, medical offices and other destinations has been discussed for many years.
The process to create Ride Lake County began in earnest in April 2019 when the Lake County Division of Transporation completed a paratransit market study. In May 2021, LCDOT was directed to develop a countywide service proposal and four months later authorized to negotiate an agreement with Pace.
"While it may seem like a long time, it's important to realize how many agencies had to be brought on board and how many townships had their own organizations," Ann Maine, a veteran board member from Lincolnshire said during a discussion this week.
"Up until something was in place we had to gather a lot of data to understand what people needed and wanted and how to make that work," she added.
Some townships operate their own services funded without Pace's assistance. It will be up to those local agencies to determine whether to continue once Ride Lake County begins, said Mike Klemens, the county's manager of transportation planning.
An estimated 59,000 trips annually are expected for Ride Lake County. The fare will be $2 for up to 5 miles, $4 from 5 to 10 miles, and $6 of 10 miles or more. Pace has contracts with taxi services to supplement buses during times of high demand, Klemens said.
The service will operate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week except holidays. Reservations will be able to be made from two hours to seven days in advance.
Most collar counties have some paratransit service available but not all are countywide. The closest program to Ride Lake County is McHenry County's MCRide Program, which is designed to be borderless, Klemens said.
Riders will be able to cross into neighboring areas as long as the trip starts or ends in Lake County.
Pending board approval, the county will be working with local partners to spread the word about the new service. Marketing and outreach is planned, a riders guide will be released, brochures distributed and registrations taken leading up to the May 1 debut.