The Pace Bus System

By Alexa Pateras
(May 2012)

Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world and yet we are bogged down with a 20th century transportation infrastructure. The City of Big Shoulders bears the brunt of this public transportation mess; however, it has affected the suburbs and, in particular, the emerging city of Schaumburg. There once was a well developed plan proposed for extending L service to Schaumburg, but now if seems to have collected dust with no resurrection in sight. Without it, Schaumburg may never reap the benefits mass transit has to offer.

Having a public transportation system in place as well as alternative methods of transportation is extremely important for the health of our environment. Here in Chicago there is an excellent system in place known as the CTAfor residents to use to navigate the city. In contrast, the suburban transportation network leaves much to be desired. One of the main problem that Chicago’s suburbs face with public transportation is the availability as well as the convenience of the bus system, known as the Pace bus system. While reading many articles that pertain to the CTA and the Pace bus system, I found a lot of supporting arguments for public transportation being the way to go. It also seems as if the Pace bus is on the right track and can be just as popular as the CTA with some expansion.

The Pace bus system serves suburbs throughout the Chicago metro region (photo: Pace)

The reportToward a Sustainable Future: Addressing the Long Term Effects of Motor Vehicle Transportation on Climate and Ecologyby the Transportation Research Board supports the need for cutting back on automobiles for the purpose of improving air quality and mitigating global warming. Although the report does not come out and say that it is necessary that we completely stop using cars and go right to other modes of transportation like busses and bikes, it does say that automobile use presents long-term risks for the environment. This will eventually lead to risks to us as humans as well. We can cut these automobile emissions by half or more by switching to busses alone. This really supports the need for Pace to expand within the suburbs because it shows very clearly how car emissions are damaging to the environment as well as to humans.

The GREENR article/graphic entitled “Levels of Emitted Air Pollutants per Passenger Mile” and reiterates the effect of pollutants on the environment by comparing levels of pollution between vehicles and public transportation. This graph compares automobiles to public transportation by measuring the emission levels per passenger mile. According to the graph, all automobile levels are at 100. The public transportation levels, by contrast, do not even come close to those of car emissions. For carbon monoxide the level of emissions is at 5; or VOCs the level is at 8; for nitrogen oxide the level is 52; and for carbon dioxide the level is at 55. This tells us that if we switched over from automobiles to busses we could cut most of our emissions in half, if not more.

Levels of Emitted Air Pollutants per Passenger Mile
(source: GREENR)

Another interesting fact that may contribute to the relatively limited use of busses in the suburbs lies within an article “Transportation Noise and Blood Pressure in a Population-Based Sample of Adults,” that deals with personal reactions to noise levels of busses and early morning commutes. This study shows that adults in more vulnerable states, such as those having diabetes or hypertension, are more likely to feel stressed about the transportation noises and surroundings. This is a possible reason why some people don’t want to take public transportation. There could very well be an underlying issue with the stigma of buses or within a specific individual that compels them to want to drive themselves. While the report doesn’t provide enough information to assume that this plays a major role in the ridership for Pace busses, it is something that is good to be aware of. Another relevant issue is that heavy traffic can create some sort of anxiety, and that this would be a great potential marketing tool for public transportation. The more people that take public transportation, the less traffic and congestion are created on the roads.

According to the Pace bus website there are currently 12 busses that service the Schaumburg area. Most of these busses operate during rush hour or from morning to evening. This makes it convenient for the work day for riders but it doesn’t extend much after that. The Pace bus website has a layout of current prices for passengers. There are a few options for fare purchasing. One way is you can pay per ride. Another payment option is to buy a package deal which allows you to ride so many times or for a certain amount of time.

Many factors go into the Pace bus system’s route selection as well as how bus transportation affects humans and the environment. It is important to implement a better bus system for the suburban areas of Chicago to help reduce the pollutants that go into the air as well as to maximize our efforts to make the environment better than it already is. Such an approach will also make commutes to particular destinations faster because there will be less traffic on the roads. This is a win-win situation because more public transit usage can reduce both traffic and the emission of harmful pollutants.

Next Page: Cycling as Transportation Alternative