Pace Suburban Bus Service may expand its presence in DuPage County, after county officials recently met with area mayors and city managers.
The DuPage County Mayors and City Managers Conference, at which the meeting took place, was “not so much a proposal as an invitation to strategize,” said Tam Kutzmark, the transportation and planning director for the conference.
“The county, the conference, service board and other agency partners were all there, and we’re very much at the beginning of the conversation,” she said.
This most recent push is part of the DuPage Area Transit Plan, which focuses on the big picture and was created to increase the use of alternative transportation options, such as buses.
Kutzmark said that, despite pushback from municipalities, which prevented a major expansion eight years ago, she believes area governments are ready for transportation reform.
“Pace’s bus program has evolved,” she said. “And certainly, some of the conditions and parameters that cities might look at have changed as well.”
Recent bus stop additions in Addison and Carol Stream are signs of an interest in Pace expansion, Kutzmark said. There is increased funding available for such projects, she said, as well as a model for paying for shelters through advertisers and new laws in municipalities that were against more bus stops due to sign zoning restrictions.
“One of the things that was brought up originally was that our code didn’t allow for ads in the right of way,” said Carol Stream Assistant to the Village Manager Chris Oakley. “But we started allowing the construction of digital signs. Banks, for example, show the time and the day and weather on some of their signs. As technology changed, we followed suit.”
Oakley said he believed that, while Carol Stream residents will benefit from the Pace expansion, there isn’t a significant need for more routes.
“I think that what people would really like would be some real time information, so they’re not wasting time at bus stops,” he said.
That information could come from scrolling feeds with bus arrival times at the new stops or from mobile phone applications.
Oakley also said that another big village concern, maintenance, was covered in some of the possible agreements with Pace or other private companies whose services the village may use.
“A lot of people had images of what they’ve seen in Chicago,” he said. “They had seen some shelters that weren’t well-maintained or were dirty, and I think Pace has given some pretty good assurance that they’ll be clean and maintained throughout the year.”
Kutzmark said that next, the conference will turn to Pace for more analysis about bus shelter locations.
“I would imagine as we hear from Pace about how they want to strategically locate stops and how to ID the best place to put stops,” she said, “That will lead where this conversation might go or strategies we might pursue.”