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Dempster Diving: A Look at the Upcoming Pace Pulse Bus Route

A map of the Pace Pulse route along Dempster between Evanston and O’Hare. Image: Pace

Pace Suburban Bus Service is continuing to plan its new Pace Pulse network of express bus routes, dubbed "Arterial Rapid Transit," along major roads throughout Chicagoland. Pulse service is proposed for several busy arterial corridors: Milwaukee Avenue, Dempster Street, Harlem Avenue, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, 95th Street and Roosevelt Road.  The first route along Milwaukee Avenue between the Jefferson Park Transit Center and the Golf Mill Shopping Center is currently in the planning process. Planning has also begun for the Dempster route, which will be the next in the series.

Pace operates the #250 Dempster Street bus daily between the Davis Street CTA Station in downtown Evanston and the Kiss ‘N Fly drop off lot at O’Hare Airport. The #250 is one of Pace's key north suburban routes, with strong ridership. The route is designed as a quick and affordable one-seat ride between Downtown Evanston and O’Hare, useful for Northwestern University students.  According to the Regional Transportation Authority, the ridership as of July 2017 is 2,778 on weekdays, 1,747 on Saturdays and 1,283 on Sundays.

The Davis stop is a major transportation hub in Downtown Evanston.  It is served by the CTA Purple Line, Metra's Union Pacific North Line, three CTA bus routes and three Pace routes.  The Kiss ‘N Fly lot is connected to the airport terminals by the Airport Transit System monorail. Pace's #330 Mannheim-LaGrange Roads bus also operates daily between the Kiss ‘N Fly lot and the intersection of Archer and Harlem Avenues on the border of southwest suburban Summit and the Chicago's Garfield Ridge neighborhood, near Midway Airport.

Pace is planning to upgrade the existing #250 service by creating the Pulse route on Dempster.  Planning for the Dempster corridor started in 2015 and is currently in the design phase. Construction is slated to begin in 2019, and service is anticipated to launch in 2020, according to the project schedule. Pace says funding for construction is pending. 

A recent public meeting on the Dempster project in Evanston. Photo: Jeff Zoline
A recent public meeting on the Dempster project in Evanston. Photo: Jeff Zoline
A recent public meeting on the Dempster project in Evanston. Photo: Jeff Zoline

The #250 route will run express daily in both directions from Davis to O’Hare with 13 intermediate stops: Dempster and Dodge, Dempster and Kimball/Lincolnwood, Dempster and Crawford, the CTA Yellow Line's Dempster Station, Dempster and Austin, Dempster and Waukegan, Dempster and Milwaukee, Lutheran General Hospital, Dempster and Dee, the Des Plaines Metra Station, Lee/Mannheim and Oakton, Lee and Touhy, and Mannheim and Lunt (by the Allstate Arena).

Transit Signal Priority, with stoplights that sense approaching buses and shorten reds or extend greens to expedite service, will be installed along the Dempster route. Each station will have a heated bus shelter and a screen with real time bus tracker information, as well as transit maps and other information.  The buses used on this route will offer additional amenities such as Wi-Fi Internet and USB charging ports for mobile devices. Specific hours of operation and possible service changes are pending review.

The first public meeting on the Dempster project was held on September 12, 2017 at the Des Plaines Public Library. A second hearing was held on September 21, 2017 at the Levy Senior Center in Evanston in conjunction with a presentation on Pace and the CTA’s North Shore Coordination plan to improve service. 

The Pace Pulse Dempster route should be a great addition to regional transit service. I look forward to hearing more about the project as plans are finalized.

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