Pace suburban bus service is proposing permanently cutting dozens of suspended routes and expanding joint Pace-CTA passes in the coming year.
The proposals are part of the agency’s 2023 budget, which will undergo public hearings this week and next. Pace is proposing a $303.4 million suburban service budget, a $72.4 million capital program and $238.5 million for paratransit services, provided to people unable to take other types of CTA or Pace service because of a disability or health condition.
Pace is proposing additional changes to passes, after a revamped regional transit pass was introduced earlier this year that allowed some Metra commuter rail riders unlimited rides on Pace and CTA. Now, proposed changes would allow riders to use CTA one-day and three-day passes for unlimited rides on both CTA and Pace. A shared seven-day pass already exists, and the price would be cut from $25 to $20.
Transfer fees between regular Pace routes would be eliminated, and transfer fees to premium routes would be lowered for people who pay with Ventra rather than a pass.
The 2023 budget does not include increases to regular fares, but fares will be reinstated, at a lower amount, for two services open to riders eligible for paratransit services. Fares had been waived since early 2020 for the Taxi Access Program, which allows riders to take a Chicago taxi, and for the DuPage Uber Access Program, which covers the cost of certain Uber trips. Both will be reinstated at $2, down from the original $3.
Pace is planning to permanently cut 69 routes that have been suspended since spring 2020. That will bring the total number of fixed routes operated by the agency to 131.
The money for those routes will be reallocated through a planned “bus route network revitalization initiative,” intended to create a plan for adding and modifying service, the agency said. The program is expected to get underway next year.
“We understand that, for some, the routes as they existed in 2019 worked just fine, and change can be difficult,” Pace Executive Director Melinda Metzger said in a statement. “But our upcoming initiative involves a genuine effort to listen to the needs of riders, potential new riders and other stakeholders to come up with services that work well for even greater numbers of people.”
The Pace budget also calls for putting money toward electrifying buses, as it works to allow the garage serving routes in Waukegan and the northern suburbs to serve an all-electric fleet by 2026, and toward systemwide electrification by 2040.