Bus-on-Shoulder Service

Shoulder riding is one of the most affordable options for implementing rapid bus service on expressways and tollways because it is less expensive to modify shoulders than it is to construct new roadways or dedicated lanes. Bus service on bus-only shoulders has already proven incredibly successful in northeastern Illinois in increasing the reliability and attractiveness of public transportation.

In 2011, thanks to a change in Illinois State law, Pace implemented bus-on-shoulder service on the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) as a demonstration project. That upgrade was developed in partnership with IDOT, the Illinois State Police, and RTA. Since 2011, Pace has expanded service along the I-55 corridor several times. In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation permanently allowing bus-on-shoulder service and expanding that permission to all the region's expressways and tollways.


The Illinois Legislature permits Pace to operate in the shoulder lane on certain expressways

Currently, six bus routes use the I-55 shoulder: 754, 755, 850, 851, 855, 856. In the years since Pace first got approval to use the shoulder, bus ridership on that corridor has increased more than 600%, and on-time performance-which averaged less than 70%--is now over 90%. The overflowing parking lots along the I-55 corridor led Pace to expand the existing lots and develop two new ones in 2016, and then yet another new park-n-ride in 2018 in Plainfield.

Also in 2018, Pace and IDOT opened bus-on-shoulder service on the Edens Expressway (I-94). Routes 620 and 626 use this I-94 shoulder, with other services planned for the future.

Pace buses don't always use the shoulder, even on those highways that allow it. Pace and IDOT agreed on certain restrictions to shoulder riding, including:

  • The bus can use the shoulder only when general traffic slows to less than 35 MPH.
  • The bus cannot travel faster than 35 MPH while on the shoulder, and cannot travel more than 15 MPH faster than general traffic.
  • If the shoulder has obstructions such as a stalled car or snow, the bus does not use the shoulder.

Pace also has service similar to bus-on-shoulder operations on the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90). That service, launched in 2017 by Pace and the Illinois Tollway operates in a "flex lane", which is even wider than a standard shoulder and allows buses to travel up to 50 MPH in the lane. Access to the flex lane is open to Pace buses during congested periods as defined by Illinois Tollway personnel, who monitor conditions 24 hours per day. Planning is underway for a second flex lane to be built on I-294.


Shoulder riding keeps the bus moving in a dedicated 'lane.'

Routes that use the shoulder have this logo on the published schedule:

Bus-on-shoulder is not the only form of Bus Rapid Transit which Pace is operating or has in development. On arterial streets, Pace is pursuing Pulse service, with the first line launching in 2018.

Pace's 'Bus on Shoulder' TV commercial


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