I-55 Bus on Shoulder Demonstration

Overview

The Illinois Department of Transportation has partnered with the Regional Transportation Authority and PACE bus service on a demonstration project to move the most people through congestion and promote public transportation. This project will:

  • Improve transit service quality on Interstate 55
  • Improve customer experience and transit rider ship in the Interstate 55 travel corridor
  • Maintain normal shoulder functions and traffic safety
  • Maximize cost effectiveness of the regional transportation network

Project Schedule

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Pace Suburban Bus, and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are conducting a two year demonstration of transit bus operations on the Interstate 55 (Stevenson Expressway) left shoulder as a priority treatment for transit under congested highway conditions. An evaluation will be conducted during the second year to determine the effectiveness and usefulness of the bus-on-shoulder transit operations for improving mobility as well as the effects bus-on-shoulder operations have on travel conditions and safety for the motoring public in the general purpose highway lanes.

The Interstate 55 (Stevenson Expressway) demonstration will begin on November 14, 2011. The impacts will influence Pace Routes 755 and 855.

Project Features

Pace Routes
Pace commuter express routes 755 and 855. These destination-based routes serve long distance trips of 15-25 miles from Burr Ridge, Bolingbrook, Romeoville, and Plainfield to downtown Chicago (Route 855) and the nearby Illinois Medical District (Route 755). This one-way fare is $4.00 and parking at the park-and-ride lots is free.

Shoulder availability and operation
The shoulder option will be an added feature of Pace routes 755 and 855 that can be used on an as-available basis. Authorized Pace buses can use the designated shoulders from 5-9 AM northbound and 3-7 PM southbound when general traffic is moving at less than 35 mph.

Designated Bus Shoulders
Three adjacent sections of Interstate 55 comprising over 15 miles in both northbound and southbound directions are designated for bus on shoulder operation utilizing the left (inside) shoulder. Motorists can still use the shoulder at all times for emergencies; buses are required to leave the shoulder if it is occupied for any reason.

  1. Kedzie Avenue to Cicero Avenue (1 mile)
  2. Cicero Avenue to Interstate 294 Interchange (8 miles)
  3. County Line Road to Interstate 355 Interchange (6 miles)

Designated bus shoulders will function as a low speed priority treatment for authorized Pace buses under congested highway conditions.

Bus on Shoulder Signs
Special bus on shoulder signs will mark the location of designated bus shoulders and indicate the times when buses may use the shoulder.

Safety
Safety is the primary consideration with both the highway design features and the shoulder operating rules. Shoulder use will always be optional for bus drivers. When the shoulder is used, bus drivers will exercise their best professional judgment in considering the safety of other motorists as well as that of bus passengers. The maximum speed of the buses driving on the shoulder will be 35 mph. The shoulder will be closed for use of Pace buses in instances of maintenance on the shoulder, law enforcement use, stalled vehicles present, or obstruction on the Interstate 55 left shoulder.

Bus-On-Shoulder Video Demonstrations

Route 755 - Plainfield - IMD - West Loop Express

Route 855 - Plainfield - East Loop Express

Public Involvement

As the I-55 Bus-on-Shoulder Demonstration progresses, IDOT will periodically update this website to assure that the motorists of Illinois are kept informed of project developments, public involvement opportunities, and construction related activities.

Contact Us

As the Interstate 55 Bus-On-Shoulder Demonstration progresses, IDOT will periodically update this website to assure that the motorists of Illinois are kept informed of project developments, public involvement opportunities, and construction related activities.

The Project Team is interested in hearing from you! If you have questions or ideas about the project, please send your comments to:

PACE
Govt.Affairs@pacebus.com

Please continue to visit the website for periodic updates throughout the course of the Interstate 55 Bus-On-Shoulder.

The Illinois Department of Transportation looks forward to your continued input and support.

Project Newsletter/Flyer

PACE Passenger Notices

Press Releases

Newspapers

Television

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are buses being allowed to use the shoulder?
 For over 20 years, Pace suburban bus has offered express bus service from the southwest suburbs to downtown via I-55. This bus service is unique in the region where most of the radial transit service is provided by rail. I-55 is a heavily traveled road with high levels of congestion and accompanying slow travel speeds for over 11 hours per day. Pace buses get stuck in traffic and can only perform as well as the highway. Transit buses are traversing the most congested segments of I-55 during the most congested times. This results in low travel speed, long travel times and highly variable travel times for transit. Allowing transit buses to use the highway shoulder is one way to improve transit service performance quickly and at reasonable cost. We are adding a significant new feature to Pace routes 755 and 855 without spending a lot of money.
 
Who is involved?  
 Four agencies are involved in this demonstration: 1) Regional Transportation Authority, 2) Illinois Department of Transportation, 3) Pace suburban bus, and 4) Illinois State Police. The RTA is the prime sponsor of the demonstration and the lead agency for Phase I engineering and project funding. Traditional roles and functions will be maintained for each agency. Expressway operations and maintenance will be handled by IDOT; some additional shoulder maintenance will be needed. Transit service levels, fares, marketing, and park & ride lots are the responsibility of Pace. Traffic enforcement on the highway is the responsibility of the Illinois State Police; some additional enforcement will be needed during the initial months of the demonstration.
 
How will the shoulder option make the service faster?
 When traffic is at a standstill or crawling at 35 mph or less, transit buses will be able to use the inside shoulder to keep moving or move somewhat faster than traffic, maintaining progress toward their destination.
 
 
What safety features are being planned?
 Safety is the primary consideration with both the highway design features and the shoulder operating rules. Shoulder use will always be optional for bus drivers. Whenever shoulders are used, bus drivers will exercise their best professional judgment in considering the safety of other motorists as well as that of bus passengers. The left shoulder is the designated bus shoulder in order to minimize conflicts at interchanges. Only authorized Pace buses will be allowed to use the shoulder and bus drivers must be qualified through specialized training for bus on shoulder operation. The maximum speed of buses driving on the shoulder is 35 mph. When using the shoulder, the maximum speed differential between the bus and regular traffic is 15 mph. Special bus on shoulder signs – similar to High Occupancy Vehicle lane signs in other regions – will indicate to buses and general traffic where and when buses are allowed to use the shoulder. Special high-visibility bus wraps will increase awareness among motorists and include badging that states the bus is authorized to use the shoulder.
 
How are rules of the road and bus on shoulder operational rules enforced?
 The Illinois State Police regularly patrols I-55 and issues moving violations to motorists that drive on the shoulder. The Illinois State Police will provide additional enforcement during the initial months of the demonstration in regard to motorists driving on the shoulder. The Illinois State Police will notify Pace of their bus driver’s violations of shoulder operational rules during the demonstration.
 
How will things work at entrance and exit ramps?
 The inside left shoulder was selected in order to minimize conflicts with ramps/interchanges. There is only one left side exit ramp within the project area and buses are not allowed to use the shoulder in this particular area.
 
How will buses merge to the left shoulder?
 The ability of buses to merge to and from the left shoulder is being tested as part of this demonstration. Bus drivers will need to use their training and professional driving skills to find or create an opening in traffic to merge. Because these are over-the-road coaches offering express service with limited stops they already routinely use the left travel lane on the interstate. Merging will only occur under congested conditions when buses and vehicles in the general purpose travel lanes are traveling at slower speeds.
 
What are the restrictions on buses?  
 There are time-of-day/day-of-week restrictions, traffic flow/congestion restrictions and vehicle type restrictions. Time-of-day restrictions are from 5-9 AM northbound and 3-7 PM southbound Monday-Friday. The shoulder can only be used when general traffic is moving at less than 35 mph. Finally, only buses engaged in public transportation and authorized by IDOT will be allowed to utilize the designate shoulders. This is limited to Pace suburban buses and/or charter bus companies contracted by Pace to perform as public transit buses. In addition, there may be times when all of these conditions are met, but the shoulder is unavailable because it is closed for maintenance; being used for law enforcement, or a broken down vehicle is present; or if there is an obstruction, etc.
 
Where and when will the service start?
 The transit service on I-55 already exists. The overall demonstration project limits are from Kedzie Avenue on the north to I-355 on the south. There are 3 sections each in the northbound and southbound directions of I-55 for the Bus On Shoulder (BOS) demonstration, separated by two gaps of less than one mile each. The first segment is between Cicero Avenue and Kedzie Avenue for a length of over 1 mile. The second segment is between I-294 and Cicero Avenue for an average length of 8 miles, and the third segment is between I-355 and County Line Road for an average length of 6 miles. The bus on shoulder demonstration is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2011.
 
Where can I pick up this bus?
 The buses stop at park-and-ride lots located in Plainfield, Romeoville, Bolingbrook and Burr Ridge. Route maps with specific park-and-ride lot locations are posted on the Pace website at  www.pacebus.com    
 
How much does it cost to ride this bus to downtown?
 Currently the one-way fare is $4.00. Parking at the park-and-ride lots is free.
 
How many bus routes will use the shoulder?
 The shoulder option will be an added feature of Pace commuter express routes 755 and 855 that can be used on an as-available basis. Pace commuter express buses will be permitted to use the I-55 left (inside) shoulder from 5:00-9:00 a.m. in the northbound direction and from 3:00-7:00 p.m. in the southbound direction (provided the shoulder is available and specified congestion exists). There are 8 buses in the AM peak period in the northbound direction and 8 buses in the PM peak southbound direction.
 
Which shoulders are being used?
 The inside left shoulders have been designated for bus on shoulder use.
 
What if there is a disabled car that needs to pull off to a shoulder?
 All normal shoulder functions will be maintained. Cars and trucks can and should still use the shoulder for emergencies. Buses are required to leave the shoulder if it is occupied for any reason.
 
What happens when it snows?
 The mainline lanes of the highway, ramps and interchanges are the first priority for snow removal. As a result, the shoulder may not be available for transit operations for several days during and immediately after a winter storm. Shoulders will be plowed and cleared of snow as soon as conditions allow after a snowstorm.
 
What is the model for what is being demonstrated on I-55?
 The operating rules are patterned on those of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, which has the longest and most extensive experience with bus on shoulder operations. However, there are some key differences/adjustments to reflect local conditions/preferences. For the I-55 demonstration, the minimum shoulder width is 12 feet. In Minneapolis, the minimum is 10 feet, with 12 feet desired. Also most bus-on-shoulder operations in Minneapolis use the right shoulder. The I-55 demonstration will use the left shoulder.
 
What other regions allow buses to run on shoulders?
 Other locations that have bus on shoulder operations include Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; San Diego, CA; Atlanta, GA; Columbus, OH; Miami, FL; and Cincinnati, OH. Cincinnati is the only other region that we are aware of that is currently using the left shoulder.
 
How much is this demonstration going to cost and who is paying?  
 The estimated cost for the 2-year demonstration is approximately $950,000 which will be paid for with federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds.
 
What will happen to the bus on shoulder operation after the demonstration period is over?
 Bus on shoulder is a new type of transit and highway operation in Illinois, so we are conducting a 2-year demonstration first. After the first year of bus on shoulder operations, the RTA, IDOT, Pace and the Illinois State Police will conduct an evaluation to assess how it’s working and whether it should be continued as a demonstration with changes, made permanent or discontinued. These funds were used to make modest alterations to the shoulder for the project, and also include special striping on the roadway and signage.