On November 14, 2011, Pace buses began using sections of the Interstate 55 shoulders to avoid congestion during the morning and evening rush hours. The Bus on Shoulder program is a two-year pilot project and will run on the 755 and 855 express bus routes from Will County to the city of Chicago.
"I think it's another great option for commuters to get from the suburbs to the city," said Richard Kwasneski, Pace board chairman, at an event to kick off the new service.
One-way fare is $4.00, parking at commuter lots is free, and buses are equipped with free Wi-Fi. Pace partnered with the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to start the program. While the bus routes were already operating, John Gates Jr., RTA board chairman, said the Bus on Shoulder program offers a new way to use existing equipment and infrastructure.
"There's not a lot a room for big new projects," Gates says. "But we can utilize our existing infrastructure better and this is a terrific example of it."
To prepare the expressway for the new program, the shoulders needed to be resurfaced and new signs added. The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement program operated by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning provided $58,000 in funds for signs on the highway shoulders. The CMAQ program supports surface transportation improvements such as bike paths, construction of commuter parking lots, intersection improvements, bottleneck eliminations, and transit retrofits to reduce diesel emissions.
The Bus on Shoulder program aims to improve travel times and reduce congestion, and officials say they can use this pilot's results as a tool to explore alternatives for other highways in the region. For information and updates on the program, visit www.dot.il.gov/busonshoulder/index.html.