Work on Pulse bus line stations may begin soon

by Agnes Connolly

Work is expected to begin as soon as next month on new bus stops to accommodate the Pace suburban bus service 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.

The Niles Village Board of Trustees at its meeting July 25 voted to allow Pace to begin building the stations. Whihic construction locations will begin first is still yet to be determined.

The express bus line 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 lanes and will provide shortened travel times for commuters.

Pace media relations manager Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said that Path Construction Company has been hired for the project and construction is to begin either in late August or in September with 240 calendar days as the estimated length of the project.

"Pulse bus services on Milwaukee should be running by late spring of 2018," she said.

According to the Pulse Web site, bus station construction will cause no detours but will result in bus stop relocations and lane reductions.

For the Milwaukee service, stations are to be built at major streets and intersections. The line will have eight stops between its two terminals, including on Central, Austin, Devon Ave, Touhy and Harlem avenues, and at Oakton, Main and Dempster streets.

The bus stations will display community art, along with custom railing and landscaping. The stations will also have a 12-inch curb to reduce the gap between the bus and the boarding platform, in order to quicken the process of boarding the bus.

"(The stations] will have real-time next bus arrival information, maps, and better amenities than average bus stations. The stations will be accessible, complimentary to the landscape and will incorporate community expression and involvement," Skogsbakken said,

"It’s important to know that the Pulse line and the 270 local bus line will compliment each other. Nothing is be taken over or inconvenienced," said Skogsbakken. "We are dedicated to speed and efficiency."

She also explained how future Pulse bus lines would compliment each other. Plans for a Pulse service on Dempster Street are currently underway and are expected to be running by 2019. The line is planned to run from Evanston to O’Hare International Airport.

Pulse will also be using Transit Signal Priority technology. Skogsbakken said, "Depending on traffic, TSP allows us to request an extended green (light) or a shorter red (light). It all depends on traffic conditions. If it is really congested or if traffic is bad, our request might not be acted on. All of this is to make sure services can stay on schedule as often as possible."

The Milwaukee Pulse bus would be running from 5 a.m. to midnight during the week, arriving every 10 minutes during rush hours, and every 15 minutes during off-peak hours until 10 p.m. when buses will begin to arrive every 30 minutes until midnight. On the weekend, service will begin at 5:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 6 a.m. on Sundays and will run until midnight. Buses will arrive every 15 minutes until after 10 p.m. when they will arrive every 30 minutes.

Skogsbakken said that the collaboration of efforts by community partners such as members of Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce, Niles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, members of the 41st and 45th wards of Chicago, and many others groups and organizations made Pulse possible.

"This is an example of some of the great things that can happen when people come and work together," she said.

Niles village manager Steve Vinezeano said getting an arterial rapid transit bus line to Niles has been a long process. Vinezeano said he has been working on making rapid transit a reality for Niles for 13 years.

Vinezeano said it should be made clear to residents and users of public transportation that Pulse will "not be reducing any forms of service but is really an enhancement."

"Residences will really be able to see how valuable Pulse will be, especially when we build out the rest of the system," he said.

Vinezeano also said, "The system creates great, local connections, and when it is expanded even more, residences will really be able to see that. We also want to make this whole system very friendly to those who don’t use cars."

When it comes to construction for the bus stations, Vinezeano said that the community will see lane reductions and possible other traffic changes but there should be no extreme or heavy impact. Vinezeano also said that local businesses would be made aware of construction developments and updates.