The Chicago Transit Authority and PACE suburban bus service are on the tail end of a two-year study of north suburban metropolitan Chicago service, and changes to service will be coming. One change has resulted in an outpouring of commentary and protest – possible changes to the 205 bus route to and from Evanston Township High School.
After taking comments from the public and representatives from PACE and CTA, Council passed a resolution “Supporting Direct Public Transit Service to” ETHS, and requesting “Pace and CTA delay the proposed Phase 1 route changes, and instead modify service to fully address the needs of all Evanston residents, including those traveling to and from ETHS.”
Christopher Canning, the former mayor of Wilmette and current Pace board member representing the North Shore, said the process of reviewing routes for possible changes began as early as July 2014. Then, he said, he “met with the City Manager, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, and T.J. Ross, the executive director of Pace, in the Mayor’s office.” Mr. Canning recounted that then-Mayor Tisdahl said, “You know, there are a lot of buses on the streets of Evanston,” including Pace, CTA, Northwestern, and other types of buses. She also said, “Maybe we ought to try and work on a way to reduce the number of buses here on the streets of Evanston,” Mr. Canning said.
Thereafter, in 2016, Pace and CTA kicked off the North Shore Transit Coordination Plan and Market Analysis Study, he said. The process is ongoing, a fact highlighted by both Mr. Canning and Mayor Stephen Hagerty, and affirmed by the CTA’s Vice President of Planning Mike Connelly.
Public meetings are an important part of the planning process, said Mr. Canning. CTA and Pace presented their proposed Phase One changes at the City’s Transportation and Parking Committee meeting in March 2018. According to minutes of that meeting, no one on the committee made any comments or suggestions. A public meeting was set for April 24 at the Levy Center.
Nearly 100 people attended the Levy Center meeting, and 36 of them spoke, generating “28 pages of comments,” said Mr. Canning. All comments will be taken into consideration and included in the packet presented at the next Pace board meeting, he added, as will the City Council’s ETHS resolution. The matter will be on the agenda in May for presentation, but no vote will be taken at the time.
Mr. Connelly thanked “members of the Evanston community for their support of public transit,” and thanked everyone for feedback. The process has included open houses, surveys, meetings and steering committees, with the ultimate goal being to “find a way to provide service where it is needed most while providing that service as efficiently as possible,” he said. CTA and Pace are “still finalizing service plans” which will take into account actual ridership data as well as public input.
“We will be getting back to you soon with a final service plan,” he concluded.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who chairs the Transportation and Parking Committee, took issue with the timing of the Levy Center meeting, calling the 4:30 p.m. start time “really a disservice to the community.” She said if the meeting had been on a Saturday morning at ETHS, rather than shortly after school got out on a Tuesday, more people would have been there, including the working parents of children who took the bus to school. Meeting should be held at “times when most of the public can come out and participate,” she said.
Mr. Ross said meetings were scheduled at times when buses were running so people could get there by bus. Meetings have to start, and end, when bus service is available.
Ald. Wynne suggested two meetings instead of just one, and Mr. Ross readily agreed to hold multiple meetings in the future.