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Melinda Metzger defines service and operating goals for Pace with 2024 budget

November 16, 2023

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This guest blog was written by Pace Suburban Bus Executive Director, Melinda J. Metzger. Learn more about the proposed 2024 Regional Transit Operating Budget and Capital Program and submit a comment before December 7, 2023, here.

As we plan for the year ahead, Pace is poised to reimagine our transit system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased to present Pace’s balanced 2024 Budget, which builds upon a remarkable year filled with historic infrastructure investments, innovative service launches, and thoughtful efforts to continue strong ridership growth. The profound changes brought about by the pandemic transformed the way we do business, and our agency is uniquely positioned to adapt and meet our region’s evolving mobility needs.

Our innovative spirit is already bringing riders back and attracting new ones. In 2023, Pace rolled out lower fares and additional integrated unlimited-ride passes. We implemented technological upgrades benefiting riders with disabilities and deployed more real-time bus tracker signs throughout our service area.

We successfully secured funding for our first wave of electric vehicles and launched a new user-friendly trip planning platform. We expanded our On Demand program and launched Pace Connect—a new late-night first/ last-mile service. Historic investments in transit infrastructure also took shape.

Construction started on a new ADA Paratransit Transfer Facility at our Northwest Transportation Center, while progress continued on our South Campus project in Markham. The Harvey Transportation Center reconstruction project saw significant progress, and we launched the Pulse Dempster Line.

Our 2024 budget features a robust capital program and fully funded operational budgets for fixed-route and paratransit services with no fare increases or reductions in service. The budget was created with fiscal responsibility top of mind, making the best use of our available resources while capitalizing on the strong foundation that has established Pace as the premier suburban transit provider, safely and efficiently serving our region’s 8.4 million people.

We look forward to nurturing our innovative spirit in 2024. The 2024 budget reinforces our commitment to sustainability. Pace’s team is diligently working to implement Project Zero—our ambitious plan to convert the entire Pace fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2040. 2024 will see even more progress toward Project Zero, including additional infrastructure enhancements and battery electric buses. Southwest Division is home to our first battery electric bus which arrived in 2023, North Division is set to become our first fully electric facility, and in 2024, we expect to receive 22 additional electric buses.

The Rideshare Access Program (RAP) will offer enhanced, subsidized options for all ADA paratransit customers enabling them to utilize rideshare services like UZURV and Via. This program and free fares on Pace fixed route services for all ADA paratransit customers will improve access to public transportation for all in our region.

Aligning with our strategic plan, Driving Innovation, we will strengthen fixed-route transit in high-demand markets while leveraging technology and mobility solutions to better serve our diverse suburban communities. We are embarking on the development of ReVision, Pace’s comprehensive network revitalization and system restructuring plan, to meet existing and projected market demands.

Pace’s ability to adapt, innovate, and maintain balanced budgets could not happen without our partners in municipal, township, and county governments. Our state and federal leaders understand why transit is critical to a strong quality of life and see the need for greater investments in transit through laws like Rebuild Illinois and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Our continued partnerships and collaboration will help ensure another successful year at Pace.

As we continue to build a modern, world-class transit system, we are prepared to take on another challenge caused by the pandemic—the looming fiscal cliff facing transportation agencies across the country. Through collaboration and investment, we will work to address this challenge and keep the momentum to innovate, adapt, and better serve the people of Northeastern Illinois.

For more information, see the 2024 Regional Operating Budget and Capital Program web page for links to agency budgets as well as RTA’s proposal regional transit budget that includes new 15 evaluation criteria for capital projects.

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