PACE plans arterial rapid transit bus service between Jefferson Park & Golf Mill in Niles; buses will have ‘priority’ green light technology
by BRIAN NADIG
Pace suburban bus service plans to launch in 2017 an arterial bus rapid transit line on Milwaukee Avenue between the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal and the Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles which will feature technology that can alter the timing of traffic signals at any time to help buses stay on schedule.
Currently that stretch of Milwaukee is served by Pace Route 270, which has stops every couple of blocks, but under the recently named “Pulse” limited-stop program, pickups and dropoffs will be made every half-mile at designated stops that will be built next year along sidewalks and parkways, said PACE spokesman Patrick Wilmot. “We are estimating, conservatively, a 10 to 15 percent” reduction in travel time, he said.
Route 270 service, with its frequent stops, will continue after the Pulse Milwaukee Line starts, Wilmot said. Although the Route 270 schedule is expected to be cut back in 2017, the total number of daily trips offered by PACE between Jefferson Park and Golf Mill will increase with the addition of the Pulse service, he said.
The Pulse line will have eight stops in each direction between Jefferson Park and Golf Mill. In Chicago those stops will be at Central Avenue, Austin Avenue/Ardmore Avenue and Haft Street/Highland Avenue, and in Niles at Touhy Avenue, Harlem Avenue/Howard Street, Oakton Street/Oak Mill Mall, Main Street and Dempster Street.
The stops will feature a shelter, heat lamps, landscaping, railings and a pillar-shaped sign that will include the “real time” arrival for the next bus, Wilmot said. The main waiting area of each bus stop will be on a rise in order to facilitate the boarding process, he said.
The Pulse express line will utilize the existing lanes of traffic, and the bus stops will not encroach onto the street, Wilmot said. The state Department of Transportation recently made signalization improvements to the traffic lights along the route in anticipation of the project, he said.
New buses are being purchased for the project, and they will feature technology that will be linked with the computers which regulate the traffic signals on Milwaukee.
When the buses are running late, a request to lengthen an upcoming green light or to shorten a red light will be transmitted to transportation department’s control center, and approval will depend on whether the change would have too much of an adverse effect on the area’s congestion, Wilmot said. Under the Traffic Signal Priority System, the lights can be lengthened or shorted by up to 10 seconds to accommodate a Pulse bus, he said.
About $13 million in federal funds have been earmarked for construction costs and bus purchases for the Pulse program. The buses will offer WiFi and cell phone charging stations.
Rapid transit bus service has been successful in other cities, and eventually Pace hopes to operate about two dozen Pulse lines in the Chicago area, Wilmot said. The Jefferson Park CTA station was chosen to be part of the agency’s first Pulse line because the station offers several public transportation options, including Metra and CTA Blue Line trains, he said.