Pace has an ambitious proposal intended to link important areas in the Chicago area via bus:
A wide-ranging network of suburban bus routes could transform the way people commute and shop, connecting people to job centers in Naperville, Elgin and Elk Grove Village, according to an ambitious $2.3 billion plan shared by Pace on Tuesday.
Express buses with high-tech amenities would take riders from the south suburbs to O’Hare International Airport. Or from McHenry south to Oswego via Randall Road. Or from Evanston to O’Hare along Dempster Street.
And buses would travel on the shoulder of the Jane Addams and Edens expressways, bypassing car traffic…
Pace has submitted its plan for an innovative suburban Rapid Transit Network to Congress, which asked for candidates for a program called Projects of National and Regional Significance. The agency revealed details of its proposal to the Tribune on Tuesday…
The network is composed of two service types: arterial bus rapid transit and suburban expressway service.
Mass transit that connects suburbs is sorely needed in the Chicago region. The current system of buses does little to add on to the existing hub-and-spoke railway system that connects the suburbs to downtown. New buses provide a flexible form of transport compared to railroads; rather than having a fixed track and sunk infrastructure costs, buses can take advantage of existing important roads and highways.
However, I suspect this plan has a lot of hurdles to overcome even beyond the federal funding they are seeking.
1. How do you get suburbanites to consistently ride the bus? Trains are one thing but buses seem to have a different status.
2. Can schedules between mass transit options be lined up?
3. Can the buses actually get people to places rather quickly and at most times of the day? The current bus system tends to take long amounts of time compared to driving.
4. Perhaps the most important question: is there enough density along the proposed lines to have consistent numbers of riders who need to go where the buses are going? Density contributes to riders which leads to more buses which leads to more options. Going to the airports makes sense – both Chicago airports are busy (O’Hare may just be the busiest in the world again) – as does more highway buses to Chicago but linking residences and businesses is a more difficult task. Downtown Naperville may be lively but how many live near there who would commute by bus elsewhere? Are there concentrations of people living along Randall Road? I wonder if there is any way to encourage denser developments – apartments, condos, townhomes, rowhouses – near such bus lines to help provide more potential riders.