Pace holds open house on Pulse express bus; concerns raised about Milwaukee/Central stop




by BRIAN NADIG

The proposed location of a Milwaukee Avenue bus stop at Central Avenue for the planned express bus service between the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal and the Golf Mill shopping center in Niles could force the closing of one of the entrances to a parking lot for two area businesses.

The Pace suburban bus service is planning to launch its Pulse arterial rapid transit line on Milwaukee in 2017. The Pulse line will have stops approximately every half-mile, compared to every couple of blocks for the existing Pace Route 270 bus that runs along Milwaukee and which will continue operating at a reduced schedule after the Pulse line starts.

Pace gave updates on the Pulse project during an Aug. 26 workshop at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. Some of the planned eight bus stops between Jefferson Park and Golf Mill have required Pace to work out agreements with adjacent property owners to allow for the stops, which will be about 60 feet in length, and there are several unresolved issues regarding the northbound stop at the Milwaukee-Central intersection.

The stops, which Pace calls "intermediate stations," will include a heated shelter with seating, an information kiosk, landscaping, a vertical identification maker with the Pulse logo, electrical signs with real-time bus arrival information and in some instances bike racks. In addition, there will be a raised platform to allow for quicker boarding.

Pace has been reviewing a recommendation by the city Department of Transportation that the southern entrance for a parking lot that serves Foremost Liquor Center and Paterno’s Pizza, 5303 N. Milwaukee Ave., be closed to allow for a Pulse station. A second driveway to the north would remain open.

The triangular- shaped parking lot also has an entrance on Central Avenue, and, to offset the closing of one of the Milwaukee driveways, an additional driveway on Central would be built at the south end of the lot. The proposal also calls for some of the lot’s parking spaces to be reconfigured.

Closing the driveway would preserve more on-street parking than other proposals being considered and would allow for a curb extension that would shorten a crosswalk on Milwaukee, according to Pace officials. Pace also has looked at installing the bus stop between the two existing driveways on Milwaukee or to place the stop in front of H and B True Value Hardware, 5329 N. Milwaukee Ave., where there is no parking lot.

Property owner Paul Paterno said that a grading issue created by the different elevations of Milwaukee and Central would cause vehicles that exit from the proposed driveway on Central "to bottom out."

Paterno also expressed concern that the proposed driveway would not be practical because frequent traffic backups on southbound Central would block the exit and that two driveways on Milwaukee are needed for proper traffic flow due to the odd configuration of the lot.

The space between the two existing driveways on Milwaukee is wide enough to accommodate the Pulse stop, but Pace is looking to create "a runway" where buses can get in and out quickly without interference from curb cuts and parked cars, Paterno said. While can cars park on Milwaukee between the driveways, parking is not allowed between Central and the first driveway to the south because it is too close to the corner, he said.

The current northbound bus stop for both Pace and CTA is located in the right-turn lane at the southeast corner of the intersection, but the project calls for bus stops, where feasible, to be relocated so that buses can clear an intersection before stopping to board or unload passengers. Too often motorists miss a green light because they are stuck behind a stopped bus, according to Pace officials.

The CTA does not operate on Milwaukee north of Central, as CTA Route 85 buses turn north onto Central from Milwaukee. Pace Route 225 and 226 buses also make the same turn, and an existing bus stop on Central, located about a 1/4 block north of Milwaukee, will accommodate passengers who are heading north on Central and currently board at the southeast corner of the Milwaukee-Central intersection, according to Pace officials.

In addition to Central, Pulse stops will be installed at Austin Avenue/Ardmore Avenue, Haft Street/Highland Avenue, Touhy Avenue, Harlem Avenue/Howard Street, Oakton Street/Oak Mill Mall, Main Street and Dempster Street.

The seven-mile Pulse line will operate at 10-minute intervals during peak weekday periods and at 15-minute intervals during off-peak periods and weekends. Late-night service will operate at 30-minute intervals, and service will run for up to 19 hours each weekday.

"The majority of those who use 270 will be able to use Pulse," said Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot. "90 percent (of Route 270 users) board within 1/4 mile of a Pulse stop and 82 percent within 1/8 mile."

Schedule reductions in the Route 270 service, which has an approximate 30-minute travel time between Jefferson Park and Golf Mill, have not been finalized, and a public hearing will be held before changes are implemented, Wilmot said.

Pulse buses, which will accept cash and Ventra cards, will be equipped with WiFi, USB charging ports and digital information signs. They also will be connected to a Transit Signal Priority system which will automatically put in a request for a longer green or shorter red light any time that a Pulse bus is running behind schedule, and it is estimated that this feature could reduce travel times by up to 20 percent, Wilmot said.

Pace has received a federal congestion mitigation and air quality grant to pay for part of the project, which is estimate to cost $9.1 million for capital construction and $4.5 million for new vehicle purchases.

Pace also is planning to implement Pulse routes in the next 10 years on Dempster Street, Harlem Avenue, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, 95th Street and Roosevelt Road. Milwaukee will be the first street to have a Pulse line.

Pulse should spur commerce and development in the corridors where it is implemented because traffic and parking congestion will be reduced as more commuters start taking public transportation due to the enhanced amenities on Pulse buses, Wilmot said. There also will be opportunities at the Pulse stops for the posting of information about the surrounding commercial district, he said.

Pace is asking that public comment on the Pulse Milwaukee Line be submitted by Wednesday, Sept. 2, in order to be included in a report that will be given to the federal government, but comment given after that deadline will be accepted and considered, Wilmot said. Comments can be submitted at www.pacebus.com/pulse.




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