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At Pace hearing in Wilmette, concerns about impact of route changes on students, workers

Pace’s bus terminal at the Linden Purple Line station in Wilmette. Photo: Robbie Zoline

Pace Suburban Bus has been holding a series of public meetings to gather feedback on a set of proposed changes in the north suburbs as part the second phase of the North Shore Coordination Plan to restructure bus service, in partnership with the CTA. The project spans the greater North Shore area from the Chicago city limits to the Lake County-Cook County line at Lake-Cook Road.

The first phase focused primarily on the Golf Road and Church Street corridors in Evanston and Skokie, as well as the North Shore corridor along Green Bay Road between Wilmette and Highland Park, also including Kenilworth, Winnetka and Glencoe. The communities primarily involved in Phase II are Skokie, Lincolnwood, Wilmette, Glenview, Northfield and Northbrook. There will also be some impact to the Far North and Northwest side of Chicago in neighborhoods like Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Norwood Park, which are served by some of these Pace routes.

Pace held the last meeting in the series Tuesday night at the Wilmette Public Library. The biggest changes in the area include the elimination of Pace route 421 Wilmette Avenue which runs two-way service during weekday rush hours between the Linden Purple Line station in Wilmette to Northfield Plaza in Northfield. I'll discuss that change in greater detail below due to the large impact on schools in the area.

The 422 Linden-Old Orchard-Northbrook Court route, which runs on weekdays between Linden and Northbrook Court Mall will be cut back to the Glenview Amtrak/Metra Station. This change means that service to UPS’s Northbrook Facility will be affected, Glenbrook North High School will lose its only bus route, and there will be loss of service in northern Glenview and Northbrook.

The 423 Linden-The Glen-Harlem route, which runs between the Linden station and the Harlem Blue Line stop in Chicago’s Norwood Park neighborhood, will be split into two separate routes. The 423 will be shortened to run between Harlem and Glenview via Harlem Avenue and Waukegan Road, and a new route 424 will be created to serve the area along Willow Road in Glenview from the Metra station at The Glen in North Glenview east through Northfield and Winnetka to Sheridan Road and down to Linden.

The proposed new 424 bus route. Photo: Robbie Zoline
The proposed new 424 bus route. Photo: Robbie Zoline

Another notable change is that Pace bus route 215 Crawford-Howard, which runs daily between the Howard CTA Red, Purple, and Yellow terminal in Rogers Park to Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, will be rerouted down Crawford and Pulaski roads to Foster Avenue and over to the Jefferson Park Transit Center on the CTA Blue Line and Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest line. This will create a daily bus route between the Blue Line and Old Orchard Mall instead of transit riders having to transfer buses along the way. There will also be connections to the CTA’s #53 Pulaski route at Peterson Avenue and Pace’s 290 Touhy Avenue bus in Lincolnwood, but a loss of connection to the Red Line at Howard, although the Howard segment between Crawford and the Red Line will be replace with a rerouted Pace 226 Oakton Street bus. In regards to this issue, several meeting attendees asked about improving service on the CTA’s #97 Skokie route, which runs daily between Howard and Old Orchard serving downtown Skokie and the Yellow Line, to cover the gap, especially on the weekends.

A big focus of the meeting was on how changes to the Pace Bus system will affect area schools, including Loyola Academy and Regina Dominican High School in West Wilmette, Wilmette Junior High School, and New Trier West High School in Northfield. The biggest concerns were with the elimination of the 421, service that will be absorbed by special school trips running in peak directions only between Linden and New Trier West on nearby Pace routes. This will cause a lack of commuter access via Wilmette Avenue to the Purple Line Express and Metra Union Pacific North train lines in East Wilmette from the west part of town in the morning, and returning in the evening. Instead of having a choice of the 421 on Wilmette Avenue or the 422 on Lake Avenue, the 422 will be the only option for commuters to the train stations with half-hour service instead on two bus routes every 15 minutes apart.

A frequent topic at the meeting was the lack of coordination between bus service and school dismissal times, and the desire for later service for after-school activities. Another issue discussed was overcrowding on the buses with students, particularly on the 421 bus which serves all the schools mentioned above, due to relatively infrequent half-hour headways and shorter 30-foot buses used on some runs. While these schools will continue to be served by special school trips, the changes will have an impact on service workers for these schools who have to arrive early in the morning or stay later at night. There will also be an impact for New Trier West since it is a freshman-only campus, so none of the students can drive to school. Many Loyola and Regina students live elsewhere in Chicagoland and rely on public transit to get to and from school. The changes will affect students who do not live close enough to school to walk or bike and will have to take car-based transportation to school if public transit is not an option.

Dozens of people showed up for the hearing. Photo: Robbie Zoline
Dozens of people showed up for the hearing. Photo: Robbie Zoline
Dozens of people showed up for the hearing. Photo: Robbie Zoline

Although the North Shore is generally an affluent region, there are many other people besides students who depend on Pace and the CTA to get around the area, such as service workers, seniors, and people with disabilities. They will also be impacted by the cuts or changes in service since many of them can’t drive.

As a side note, I (Jeff Zoline) grew up in West Wilmette and relied on many of the buses mentioned above to get around since I didn’t have a car like most of my peers. These included the 421, 422, and 213 to get to New Trier as well as many of the buses that served Old Orchard Mall. I was very fortunate to live near a major bus hub with daily service, just over the line in Skokie when I was living up there, something most people in the area lack. That gave me access to regular and reliable buses, especially during the middle of the day, and on even more so on weekends. Hopefully Pace officials will keep in mind that there are people who need to get to and from this area at times other than weekdays and rush hours.

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