Though Pace buses never stopped running during the stay-at-home order, they had to make some major changes to how they operated.
“We’ve kind of had to build the playbook as we went along,” said Executive Director Rocky Donahue. “And what I mean by that is I’ve been at Pace 38 years – I couldn’t go on my own institutional knowledge and say, ‘when we dealt with this in 1988, what did we do?’ or ‘when we did this 1995?’”
Pace Changing Operation
Pace suspended several routes, others required more service, but one of the most shocking changes to its operation was spending $20,000 every day on PPE for its employees.
And though Illinois is now in Phase 4 of its Restore Illinois plan, Pace is keeping most of its practices in place to prevent COVID transmission, and implementing new policies.
Face Coverings and More Protections
“We are now asking all our passengers to wear a face covering,” said Donahue. “It’s hard to enforce, I’m not going to lie to you. But we are encouraging to follow the governor’s orders and wear a face covering while on the bus.”
Riders won’t be removed from the bus if they don’t cover their face, but they will be asked to wear one next time for the safety of both passengers and other riders.
Donahue said things like vinyl barriers around drivers and more comprehensive cleaning will also continue for the time being.
Other Transit Services Affected
Though Pace had a 70% drop in ridership over the past few months, other public transport services were hit harder. Chicago Transit Authority saw an 80% decrease, and Metra’s trains had up to 97% fewer riders.
Donahue credited some of that to Pace moving essential workers like hospital and grocery store employees who commute within their communities, rather than into Chicago.
“We’ve tried to highlight our own heroes at Pace with a campaign we called Heroes Moving Heroes. Pace employees every day were going to work so other heroes could get to their jobs,” he said.
They’re not sure if they’ll ever see ridership at pre-COVID levels again, due to more remote working, but they have seen a steady increase recently.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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