Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pace's Doomsday--Shrug & Yawn

Pace reminds me of the tall, gawky kid wearing too short pants who always seemed out of place in high school, a kind of social embarrassment that no one knew what to do with. Pace runs big, central-city style buses through suburbs largely built and populated by folks who actively want to turn their back on urban life and prefer the rolling cocoon of a private auto over the--gasp!--social mixing required to ride in a bus. Pace's buses just don't fit in well in this milieu.

Despite all the moans and groans about traffic congestion in the suburbs, Pace can't compete against the private auto. As a result, its buses rarely carry full loads, which mean that they embarrass and anger many suburbanites. It has to be tough to try to run a public transit service in an region demographically, culturally and geographically stacked against you.

In the face of these odds, Pace has clung to life. In recent years it even took on the huge job of picking up the CTA's paratransit operation. This gave Pace full responsibility for coordinating and supplying paratransit services for the entire six-county region. Paratransit is another thankless job because it is an unfunded federal mandate. Fares cover only a fraction of the $25-$30 per trip cost and ridership demand is growing much faster than the rate of population growth or transit operating subsidies.

You would think that such a plucky agency would have earned some public support over the years. After all, American's like an underdog do they not? Think again.

Pace faces a doomsday scenario in a matter of days that appears to be at least as bad in the relative sense as the CTA's doomsday scenario, featuring fare increases, route cuts, job eliminations, and the like. Pace held a public hearing on its looming doomsday in Joliet earlier this week and here is what happened per the Joliet Herald News:

JOLIET -- Even though a Pace bus stopped right behind city hall Monday night, fewer than 10 people attended a Pace 2008 budget hearing to comment on cuts that could eliminate bus service on weekends and after 7 p.m. weeknights.

Amazing. The dismantling of what is portrayed as being a vital public service looms and fewer than 10 people show up to squawk or gawk at a public hearing held in a city of over 100,000 people that is the seat of a county of about 700,000. What has Pace done to merit such a striking lack support from the public, the politicians and the business community?

In light of this non-response to Pace's impending doomsday, do we have to assume that the suburban public would just as soon let Pace's mainline (i.e., non-paratransit) service die on the vine? And what if it did?

Moderator's note: Pace might have gotten a few more people at the hearing at its headquarters the next day, although the article does not mention the number of people who attended.


Anonymous said...

Very snarky intro there pardner.

Anonymous said...

Combine Metra and Pace and be done with it.

Anonymous said...

Combine Metra and Pace and give them to the CTA and with it be done.

Anonymous said...

It be done with what magic wand?

Anonymous said...

Ask Jimmy Reiley what he did with it.

edna welthorpe said...

Re the Joliet hearing: Can we just call it doomsday fatigue already? CTA alone has had three or four cycles of doomsday hearings (I lose count--who wouldn't?) in the past 5 years.

Besides, what if someone actually showed up to one of these hearings?
What's the potentially impacted rider expected to do? Shreik at the assembled whoever, so the outrage can be media-documented? It's not as if well-applied outrage will change anything. Not in that setting, anyways.

Anonymous said...

Again, you have missed several points:
1. Pace has 9 divisions, many with different service characteristics. South and West are of an urban character, and run full buses on 15-20 minute headways. There are the small city systems (Joliet, Aurora, Waukegan, and Elgin). Joliet is not taking many cuts in the Doomsday Plan, and, in fact, fewer than under the proposed South Cook-Will structuring where it is proposed that most west Joliet service be converted to Dial-A-Ride. It has the Northwest, North Shore, and Southwest suburban divisions, which are more like what you are describing, and it coordinates the feeder services run by contractors which are being cut. I wonder if there will be much response to the feeder cuts, but that is a separate issue to whether there would be much of a turnout in Joliet.
2. Pace never had much of any political clout, as pointed out in rebuttal to your Andy Martin piece.
3. I agree with Edna Welthorpe about the Doomsday fatigue. Pace had a bunch of hearings before announcing the supposed September cuts, and the only thing this hearing was on was the proposed budget. Pace's position has been quite clear since August that if it doesn't get the money from the state, those cuts are happening (and even indicated that some cuts cleared through that hearing process would happen regardless of if state funding came through). Its position is that if you want to avoid them, click on the "Contact Your Legislator" link on their homepage.

I find that many people are not informed about the status of Pace operations, and a post such as this confirms that.

Justin said...

Are you suggesting that transit service cuts be applied in proportion to the number of people who show up at public meetings? :)

Anonymous said...

Run it as one system under the RTA - which would have the political clout if they were given actionable authority. Dissolve the Pace, CTA and METRA Boards and make them operating divisions under the RTA's control. The region needs one voice - not four - to have any effect on the political front.

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah, 10:12.

Moderator said...

Good points:

Doomsday fatigue: Yes.

Pace has a range of service characteristics: Yes.

Fund transit by public hearing turnout: Of course not.

Tuck CTA, Metra and Pace into the RTA in NY MTA fashion: Yes.

* * *
My point simply was that granted Pace has a range of service characteristics and granted that doomsday fatigue is chronic, it still is astonishing that so few people cared to show up to express their concerns about looming service cuts at a hearing held in a major service center for Pace.

Anonymous said...

"My point simply was that ... it still is astonishing that so few people cared to show up to express their concerns about looming service cuts at a hearing held in a major service center for Pace."
Except that, in search for Joliet on the home page route finder:
1. It is questionable whether Joliet is a major service center, with 10 routes. Certainly not Harvey.
2. The only route with a Service Cuts passenger notice is 831, and if you look at the proposal for that route under the South Cook-Will initiative, it was to be cut anyway (at least back to Orland Square).

Therefore, under further analysis, there was no point to the post.

Anonymous said...

I should have added to point 1, above: all except one having an interval of a hour or more.

Anonymous said...

ADA Paratransit is no more unfunded than fixed route service. There isn't a pot of funding dedicated to "fixed route" service, any more than a pot for paratransit. Its a little like requiring safe transportation vehicles....if you run service your vehicles must be safe. That's a mandate and it isn't funded through a special pot of safe vehicle funding, it must be funded with the funds they get. At least people use and need paratransit. In fact, this is pretty much the largest growth market for public transportation in the region. It should be embraced as an important service for people who need it.

Anonymous said...

In addition, providing paratransit makes Pace relevent. Pace's entire system carries as many riders as a single high ridership CTA route.

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