Pace has tried for decades to increase bus ridership in the Chicago suburbs. Here are two new strategies:
Commuters can reserve a $2 ride in a small bus that typically stops at train stations and travels on major roads…
On-Demand service runs from early morning to evening with zones in Aurora, Batavia, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Round Lake, St. Charles/Geneva, Vernon Hills/Mundelein, West Joliet and Wheaton/Winfield. Rides need to be booked at least an hour in advance.
Another experiment is the VanGo program that lets people reserve a Pace van at the Lake Forest or Lake-Cook Metra stations and drive to employment centers such as Baxter International. An expansion to Palatine is under consideration.
“We give you a code for the vehicle, it unlocks the door, it unlocks the key, you can take it to work and back at night to the train station” along with co-workers, Metzger said.
VanGo drivers must have a credit card and a good driving record, plus meet other requirements. A round trip is $5.
These are mass transit options – still mass transit because the vehicles are operated by a transportation entity and because they are hoping there are multiple riders in the vehicle – that try to adapt to suburban sprawl. A lack of density in the suburbs means that traditional railroad and bus lines cannot reach enough people and the ease of traveling by car means that many people will choose driving. These options offer more flexibility to individual users and specific locations.
Will it work? Can Pace compete with ride shares companies or companies that offer access to vehicles? I am skeptical that it will be effective in the long run given the current nature of suburbia.