Public transit: a bike-as-transport's best friend (Express Bus Edition)

Pace: Ventra Card reader, also compatible
with ApplePay and other NFC payment
This week we went on a grand adventure. We went to Shedd Aquarium for one of their free days. The aquarium adventure itself was great and we thoroughly enjoyed our first visit and wanderings through the many exhibits. We did the entire trip via public transportation, with nearly door-to-door service.

Our trip used nearly every service that the Chicagoland public transportation system offers. We started on Pace Bus to get to a Metra train. Upon arrival at Union Station in Chicago, we walked across the street to board a CTA bus that delivered us to Grant Park. This drop point gave us, perhaps, our longest single walk of less than half a mile, to get from bus to Shedd entrance. On our return trip, we returned to the Loop by way of another CTA bus. We then used the CTA Blue Line to get to the Rosemont Transit Center, where we used the Pace Express Bus service to the Elgin Transit Center. With a final ride on a local Pace bus, we were dropped again just a few doors from our own home. My personal total walking mileage on the entire day was just under three miles. An active day, but by no means extraordinary considering the exploration of a large museum facility.

Pace: Cash and coin fare payment option
First of all, I want to sing the praises of a public transportation system that made this adventure possible. Particularly, I want to call attention to the new service Pace is offering through the express bus service from Elgin to the Rosemont Transit Center (Route 603). Bus rapid transit is a rising trend across the country. The rapid characteristic is that it has limited stops and typically uses a dedicated travel lane, which this service will with a completion of another phase on I-90 this summer.

Bus routes are flexible and adaptable. They can change routes, destination, and add frequency of service with significantly less capital than train service. Hence the ability for Pace to collaborate with CTA Blue line to turn the trip into a $4.25 trip compared to the $11 that the Metra-centric method cost. I love trains and that $7 premium is often worth the bathroom when traveling with small children, but the bus is the nimble, thrifty ninja of public transportation systems.

The express bus itself is quite the service. It is part of a multi-route expansion of such services that Pace has rolled out in the past few months. It is an addition to the existing service in our area, this route creates direct connection to the intra-city transit service of the CTA. This includes the more direct access to a sizable section of the city via the Blue Line, as well public transportation access to O'Hare airport.

2/3 of seating space on the bus
The experience of the express bus is nearly luxurious. The first section of seating looks very similar to a traditional Pace Bus, allowing for inward facing seating to fold up to accommodate for wheel chairs and other accessibility adaptation. The rest of the seating looks very different from a classic city bus. With non-stop service on a current route time of about 40 minutes, the seating is meant to be comfortable for the duration of the trip. This design style also possible due to the lack of need to move quickly from your seat to the exit on a typical local bus route service. Along with such swanky seating accommodations, these express buses boast free wi-fi access to allow work or play on a device while some one else actually pays attention to the road.

View from the back row of bus
A robust and resilient transportation system has a variety of transportation options that complement one another. I always want keep in mind the mantra that there are a variety of transportation tools to choose from and the trick is getting the right tools for the transportation task/challenge/job. Public transportation (i.e. buses and trains) move more people, using less space and less energy per capita than personal automobiles, which opens up more space on the road of commercial delivery vehicles that keep our economy pumping and precious land that could used for human thriving, be it economically or culturally, rather than storing cars.

A robust public transportation system usually thrives best when it is complemented by walkable/bikeable communities. This is due in part to the "first/last mile" characteristic of public transportation. A public transportation system can only get so close to each front door/destination. This is just a reality of implementing efficient routes and the texture of neighborhoods. The more walkable/bikeable neighborhoods and commercial districts are, the more people can choose public transportation as a truly feasible, convenient, and safe mode of transportation. When a public transportation system enables people to get to locations that are of moderate to significant regional distance, individuals are able to build behavioral patterns that do not make a personal automobile the first transportation tool of choice or necessity for their nearby errands as well.

Happy pedaling! And go enjoy a ride on that fancy new bus!

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