Some bus stops on Milwaukee Ave in Gladstone Park would be relocated to accommodate Pulse express bus

by BRIAN NADIG

Some Gladstone Park merchants could experience a reduction of on-street parking in front of their stores and lose one of the driveways to their parking lot as part of a plan to relocate bus stops to the far side the intersection in an effort to improve traffic flow.

PACE suburban bus service is looking to relocate several bus stops to accommodate the planned arterial rapid transit bus line, called "Pulse," which will operate on Milwaukee Avenue between the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal and the Golf Mill shopping center in Niles. Some of the most significant changes are planned for the Milwaukee-Central intersection.

PACE officials gave a project update at the May 1 meeting of the Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce. Traffic signal improvements along the planned Pulse route already have been made to accommodate the project.

The express bus line, which is scheduled to start in 2017, will make stops about every half-mile, compared to every couple of blocks by the current PACE Route 270, which serves the same stretch of Milwaukee and will continue to operate after the start of the Pulse service.

Pulse buses, which will offer WiFi and charging outlets for electronic devices, will use existing traffic lines and provide shorten travel times for commuters, said project manager Charlotte O’Donnell.

The location of the new Pulse bus stops will be finalized by the end of the summer, and project consultants will be considering feedback from the property owners at the affected locations, O’Donnell said.

The Pulse stops will measure up to 60 feet in length and include landscaping, a heated shelter, a 15-foot-tall identifier sign with an electronic message board and a raised curb to help facilitate the boarding of buses. The stops will be located on sidewalks and parkways.

O’Donnell said that having the Pulse stops on the far side of intersections will allow more vehicles, including the buses, to clear intersections before a traffic signal turns red. She said that all too often motorists miss a green light because they are stuck behind a bus which is blocking a lane of traffic while passengers are boarding.

In addition, the Pulses buses will possess a "transit signal priority" system that will send a request for a longer green light on Milwaukee to a traffic signal control center on those occasions when a bus is running late The request will only be granted when it would not interfere with cross traffic, and in other areas this priority system has shorten travel times by up to 20 percent, O’Donnell said.

While new bus stop locations will result in the loss of a couple of parking at those sites, new parking could be implemented at those bus stops which are being closed, said project consultant Sara Hage of HNTB Corporation.The net loss could be close to zero parking spaces, and the Pulse line will not affect on-street parking in Niles because there is no parking on Milwaukee there, she said.

Depending on the success of the Pulse line, some of the Route 270 stops could eventually be eliminated, creating more opportunities for parking, according to project officials. In most instances a Pulse stop will be a five to 10 minute walk from other PACE bus stops on Milwaukee, where the CTA currently does not operate any routes north of Central Avenue.

The Pulse line could lead to several bus stop changes at the Milwaukee-Central intersection.

Currently PACE has a shared bus stop with the CTA  in the right-turn lane on Milwaukee at the southeast corner of the intersection, from which CTA buses head north on Central.

Preliminary plans call for that bus stop to be relocated to the northeast corner of the intersection in front of a parking lot for Foremost Liquors and Paterno Liquors, 5303 N. Milwaukee Ave., and one of the two curb cuts on Milwaukee for the parking lot would be eliminated to accommodate the new Pulse bus stop. The triangular-shaped parking lot also has a driveway on Central, and project officials are looking at creating a second driveway on Central, but concern was raised at the chamber meeting that traffic backups on southbound Central would regularly block the driveway.

In addition, a new CTA bus stop would be installed on the northbound side of the 5200 block of Central, where several storefronts and on-street parking spaces are located. An existing bus stop is located about a half-block to the north.

Project officials said that alternate sites for the bus stops will be considered but that one of the goals is to have the bus stops as close as possible to the Milwaukee-Central intersection to accommodate commuters transferring between CTA and PACE routes.

Also under consideration is the elimination of a driveway for Wintrust Bank, 6336 N. Milwaukee Ave., to accommodate the relocation of a bus stop. Currently the bank has two driveways on Milwaukee and one on Nagle Avenue.

The eight Pulse stops between the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal and Golf Mill are planned for Central, AustinAvenue/Ardmore Avenue, Haft Street/Highland Avenue, Touhy Avenue, Harlem Avenue/Howard Street, Oakton Street/Oak Mill Mall, Main Street and Dempster Street.

Of all PACE Route 270 boardings between Gold Mill and Jefferson park, 90 percent occur within 1/4 mile of a proposed Pulse stop, and 82 percent occur with 1/8 miler of a Pulse stop, according to PACE.

The Pulse line is designed in part to encourage more commuters to use public transportation by providing more efficient service and enhanced amenities, O’Donnell said. PACE held a public workshop on the project in April and plans to hold a second one in August, she said.

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