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Pace's Pulse Service Aims To Change Public Transit

CHICAGO (CBS)-- You'll soon see big purple buses along Milwaukee Avenue on the Northwest Side of Chicago and neighboring suburbs.

Pace's new Pulse Line service is aiming to change public transit.

Even before the bus arrives, where you get on board is different.

You board at actual stations with heaters in the ground and above. The platform is raised, like a train, so the entrance is at the same level as passengers.

The idea is to grow ridership.

The new Pulse service will replace Pace's current Route 270, which runs from the Jefferson Park Blue Line station to Golf Mill Mall.

Currently about 3,000 people ride a day. But the hope is the new $15 million upgrade will boost ridership to 4,000.

"If we can't be any faster than the  automobile, and what you're seeing traffic move, then we're really at a competitive disadvantage," Pace Executive Director Rocky Donahue said. "We're in different market with rideshare companies -- the Ubers and the Lyfts -- people looking for quick, faster service."

Each of the buses has transit signal priority system where, if there's a green light just ahead, that light will be extended just a bit to allow the bus to pass through and shave time off the commute.

"The bus sends a signal to that traffic light, and says, 'Hey, I"m about 20 seconds out, please keep your light green to let me get through," Donahue said. "In theory, the bus only stops at the 10 stations being built along the route."

That just under eight-mile trip from end to end which takes about 30 minutes.

The new Pulse should cut that down to as little as 21 minutes.

"We're looking for choice riders.  We have a lot of dependent riders whose only option is public transit, so we want transit to be your choice," Donahue said.

Passengers will also see places to charge their cell phones and free Wi-Fi onboard.

"We live in a different world, and everybody is connected to their phones," Donahue said. "We've run transit system pretty much the same way for 35 years, and we need to move into 21st century, and we're doing that with this service."

Pulse service begins August 11 on the Milwaukee line.

Three more pulse projects are in the works as well. The goal is to have 24 pulse corridors in the long run.

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