Pace buys another e-bus, inks contract with ride-hail company to supplement paratransit
Last Tuesday, August 16, the Federal Transit Administration awarded $28.8 million to the CTA to pay for new all-electric buses, plus bus facility communication and safety upgrades to accommodate the new vehicles.
On Thursday there was more local bus electrification news as the Pace board board of directors approved the purchase of a single e-bus the suburban transit agency leased earlier this year. The Pace board signed off on several other ordinances as well, including awarding a two-year contract to a ride-hail service to supplement paratransit service in the region.
Pace leased a 40’ Gillig low-floor battery-electric bus this year so that employees could get experience operating and maintaining this kind of vehicle. The board approved the purchase of that bus, which will be returned to the agency later in the year. Pace will continue testing the bus this winter to see how it performs in the cold and snow.
“I think the unique thing is that we have the ability to see how these [electric buses] work on different routes and, quite frankly, how different these buses are,” said Pace chair Rick Kwasneski in a statement.
Like the CTA’s “Charging Forward” bus electrification plan, Pace’s strategic vision plan, “Driving Innovation,” includes a relatively modest goal of an all-electric fleet by 2040.
Electric buses are in high demand nowadays, so Pace says it’s trying to acquire them by hook or by crook. In March the board agreed to piggyback on the state of Georgia’s electric bus purchasing contract with Proterra Inc., allowing Pace to deliver buses to its North Division, which includes routes that serve Waukegan.
The ride-hail contract was awarded to the transportation network company UZURV Holdings, Inc. to provide additional paratransit service in Chicago and throughout the six-county region. It’s a strategy to address the current paratransit operator shortage and create capacity for projected growth in paratransit ridership as Baby Boomers age.
In other news, Pace executive director Melinda Metzger noted at last week’s meeting that earlier this month the feds awarded $20 million in Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity funds for the rehab of the Harvey Transportation Center, which serves Pace and Metra. “This is the first RAISE grant that our agency has received,” Metzger said in a statement. “To put into perspective the significance of receiving an award under this program, nationally, only 7 percent of applications are awarded funding and only ten grants have been awarded in our region in the program’s history prior to this year. The largest award in 2022 was $25 million, so Pace’s $20 million is at the very high end of what was awarded.”
Metzger also mentioned that Pace rides would be free for all elementary and high school students on Monday, August 22, the first day of Chicago Public Schools classes. This was the first year all three local transit agencies have offered free rides on the first day of classes.
The Pace board meets every month in Arlington Heights, usually on the third Wednesday of the month at 9:30 a.m. The board’s schedule, plus agendas, minutes, and video recordings are available at PaceBus.com, and meetings are live streamed on YouTube.