Commuter buses driving on freeway shoulders have now become a common sight in one part of Chicagoland. That’s because Pace buses which transport passengers from Plainfield and other southwest suburbs to and from Chicago are now allowed to drive on the shoulder in certain areas of I-55 during rush hour.
The Pace “Bus on Shoulder” initiative is a pilot program involving the Illinois State Police, IDOT, and RTA that affects the 755 and 855 bus routes. Similar initiatives have been implemented in Minneapolis, Miami, and Cincinnati. The goal of the Bus on Shoulder program is to improve travel times for Pace buses, boost ridership on these two routes, and thereby reduce traffic congestion for all commuters. If officials deem this program to be a success, it may be duplicated in other areas of Chicagoland in the future.
Here’s how it works: whenever rush hour traffic is traveling less than 35 miles per hour, Pace buses are permitted to drive on the shoulder of I-55 where it is possible to do so. The buses can only travel 35 mph or 15 mph over the average speed of slower vehicle traffic (whichever is less). These Pace buses must merge back into regular traffic if the shoulder is not wide enough to accommodate them (these areas will be clearly marked) or if there is a disabled vehicle occupying the shoulder. The Bus on Shoulder program only operates Monday through Friday between the hours of 5am and 9am (inbound) and 3pm and 7pm (outbound).
So what does this new initiative mean for drivers of passenger vehicles?
First, drivers can still use the shoulder of I-55 if their vehicle is disabled. They don’t need to fear being ticketed for impeding the progress of a Pace bus if they have a good reason for being on the shoulder. In addition, passenger vehicles traveling in a lane next to a shoulder on I-55 will have to be aware of Pace buses traveling on these shoulders. However, other vehicles still have the right of way if a Pace bus is trying to merge back into traffic.
Next question: will the Bus on Shoulder initiative lead to more bus accidents? Here are a few possible scenarios where a Pace bus participating in this program could cause injuries to commuters.
• A disabled vehicle on the shoulder is hit from behind by a Pace bus, injuring individuals who are inside or around the vehicle.• A Pace bus could bump a passenger vehicle while trying to merge from the shoulder back into freeway traffic, injuring the vehicle’s occupants.• A Pace bus could stop abruptly in order to avoid colliding with either a disabled vehicle on the shoulder or a moving vehicle in a lane of traffic at a merge point, injuring some of the passengers on the Pace bus.
The most important thing to remember is that the Bus on Shoulder program does not absolve bus drivers or Pace from responsibility in a motor vehicle collision. Therefore, if you are injured in an accident involving a Pace bus that is participating in this program, you should contact a qualified auto accident attorney to help you seek reimbursement for medical expenses and/or compensation for related costs.