Pace, IDOT, RTA begin Bus on Shoulder pilot project - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Pace, IDOT, RTA begin Bus on Shoulder pilot project

Photo courtesy of Pace

This Pace bus began riding on the shoulder of I-55 Nov. 14. The Bus on Shoulders pilot project will run for two years.

The timing is remarkable. Only weeks after the Texas Transportation Institute named Chicagoland the second-most congested region in the country, Pace, Illinois Dept. of Transportation (IDOT) and Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) have launched a pilot project that may be one of the most viable alternatives to driving to be implemented in a long time.

Effective Nov. 14, Pace Express Routes 755 and 855—which operate between free Park-n-Ride lots in the southwest suburbs and the Illinois Medical District, Loop and North Michigan Avenue in Chicago—began operating on designated portions of the shoulder on I-55, the Stevenson Expressway.

State legislation that established the pilot Bus on Shoulders project by amending the state vehicle code was signed by Gov. Patrick Quinn in August. The pilot is modeled after similar operations that have existed safely and saved commuters time and money for several years in Minneapolis, Minn.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Miami, Fla.; and other places.  

Only Pace buses can use the shoulder for travel, and this is limited to the designated sections of I-55 between I-355 and Kedzie Avenue from 5 to 9 a.m. and 3 to7 p.m. These sections of the highway are marked with special signage, and the buses to be used on the routes have unique badging stating that they are authorized to use the shoulder. Buses can only use the shoulder when traffic in the regular lanes is flowing at less than 35 miles per hour. When travelling in the shoulder, buses can travel at a maximum speed of 35 mph, or 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic in the regular lanes, whichever is less. If debris or disabled vehicles are in the shoulder, the bus will simply slow down, merge back into the traffic lanes when it is safe to do so, then resume travel in the shoulder once the obstruction is passed. If snow or ice is present in the shoulder, buses will use the regular traffic lanes until the shoulders can be cleared. Because buses will use the left shoulder, there are no potential collisions with merging vehicles because all of the Stevenson’s on and off ramps are located on the right in the impacted segments. The Illinois State Police will vigilantly enforce the laws banning other vehicles from traveling on the shoulder.

The pilot project lasts for two years, during which time Pace, IDOT, RTA and the State Police will remain in frequent contact. If the pilot proves successful, similar operations may be implemented on other area highways and tollways. Because construction costs are minimal compared with building commuter rail or adding traffic lanes, future Bus on Shoulder projects can be implemented relatively quickly, even at a time when capital funds are scarce, to save commuters time and money.

For more information on the Bus on Shoulder project, visit the project overview site, hosted by IDOT. Maps and schedule information for routes 755 and 855 are available at Pace’s web site.

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