When the day begins for Michael Bloomingdale, his wife has already left for work, taking their car out to the far west suburbs and leaving him to fend for himself. In order to reach his job on Roosevelt Road, Bloomingdale takes a short walk From his Marengo Avenue home just south of Madison Street to the nearest bus stop where he waits for the Pace bus. This is a routine that Bloomingdale has become familiar with over the last three years.
Like Bloomingdale, there are a hundreds of Forest Park residents who ride one of Pace’s 14 bus routes that service the village, or use one of Pace’s other services on a daily basis. Whether riding out of necessity or to save money, an additional benefit of public transit has come into vogue in recent years-improving the environment.
“From what I hear on the news, taking the bus and public transportation can do some good for the environment,” Bloomingdale said. “It’s something I’ve definitely been thinking about over the last couple of years.”
Bloomingdale’s increased awareness is nothing new to Pace, which has heard comparable statements from many of its riders.
“We found that since gas prices have jumped so high and we’ve become more aware ecologically, more people have shown interest in taking Pace buses or using one of our services,” Pace spokesperson Judi Kulm said.
The transportation company provides service to 210 communities in six counties, and, in 2004, had approximately 34 million bus riders. Pace, which is based in Arlington Heights, has come into the news recently after proposing a fare increase, eliminating its weekend bus service, and a reducing the overall number of bus routes. Currently, there are 240 fixed bus routes.
For some, the idea of public transportation can be frightening, but Kulm believes the reality is different.
“We often find people like bus riding more than they thought,” Kulm said. “Many riders get a chance to read, do some work, or even sleep. And as a rider you don’t have to deal with today’s increasing aggressiveness of drivers.”
Pace also offers a unique, more private service as well-a Vanpool.
“We have riders that share a van for work commutes,” Kulm said. It’s an opportunity for individuals to group together by location and pay a monthly flat fee for a vehicle that we take responsibility for.”
Pace has 600 Vanpools and, in 2005, 1.5 million people utilized the service, according to the organization’s website.
While waiting recently for his bus to arrive, Bloomingdale agreed that the transit service is a cost effective way to get around. He also likes that it forces him to get a little more exercise.
“I figure taking the bus saves me thousands of dollars per year in gas money and other car-related expenses from wear and tear,” Bloomingdale said. “And when I walk to and from the bus stop, I get more exercise than I would if I drove.”