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Bus riders account for more than 20 percent of people using Lake Shore Drive every day while taking up a fraction of the space that cars do.

New Pace Bus budget includes $7.6 million in new service

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While financial constraints have left local government agencies struggling to fund public transit in recent years, at least one agency is planning to expand service in 2016.

Pace, the suburban bus provider in the Chicago region, released its proposed 2016 budget last week, and it includes nearly $8 million in new service.

The budget also includes a 25 cent fare increase to $2 for riders paying in cash. Riders paying with Ventra cards will continue to be charged $1.75 per trip.

Chicagoland residents are invited to comment on the proposed budget at one of 13 scheduled public hearings in the city and suburbs. If you can’t attend a hearing, you can also submit comments online.

The suburban transit agency has yet to release full details on the new service, but we hope the agency will continue to expand its successful bus-on-shoulder service. Currently, the service features buses traveling in shoulder lanes on I-55, reducing travel times and making trips more predictable.

Pace has already released a bold proposal to build hundreds of miles of bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors, which addresses well-known suburban connectivity challenges. Residents in many suburban communities lack access to rapid transit and are left with no choice but to drive – if they can afford a car.

Many of these towns lack the density needed to support a new rail line, so BRT is the most efficient transit option.

The agency will need a significant funding boost — as proposed in our Transit Future campaign — to build the full network, but it will get started next year with the Pulse Milwaukee Line. The Pulse express service, which will begin in 2017, will run along Milwaukee Avenue between the Golf Mill Shopping Center and the Jefferson Park Transit Center, where passengers can connect with other Pace bus routes as well as CTA and Metra.

These are the types of service improvements and expansion projects needed in the city and suburbs to build a true regional rapid transit network. They can’t happen unless our leaders stop pushing to cut funding from an already underfunded system and instead invest in a 21st century public transit system.

Photo credit: Pace Bus