When the first two hybrid buses ordered by roll off the assembly line in December, they will get sent to Highland Park.
“Your previous mayor (former ) said ‘I want it, I want it, I want it,’” Pace Executive Director Thomas Ross said Tuesday to a group assembled at Highland Park’s bus barn. “We were being responsive to the community.”
Ross was briefing a group that included and current on the status of the city’s partnership with Pace.
The only place Pace houses its buses between Evanston and Waukegan is Highland Park’s public works facility. The buses share space with snow removal equipment and city vehicles unrelated to police and fire.
Encouraging public transportation
The hybrid buses are just part of the efforts between various levels of government and Pace to encourage public transportation amongst high school students and suburban residents.
“The hybrid is a giant step toward making public transportation more green,” Dold said. “This is a pilot program.”
The hybrid's electric engine can be charged at the Highland Park facility, something Dold lauded for being energy efficient.
Highland Park has long been a leader on sustainability issues. It was one of the first communities to offer free recycling to its residents and pioneered commercial recycling. Rotering considers the use of hybrid buses a logical progression.
“This is a continuation of the initiatives we have been pushing in an effort to improve sustainability,” Rotering said. “It’s natural to move the effort into public transportation.”
Dold and Rotering see another Pace initiative -- Haul Pass -- as a way to give high school students independence for both recreation and employment. The program allows any high school student in the area to ride a Pace bus for the entire summer for $45.
“It gives them independence and makes it easier for mom and dad,” Dold said. “It helps them get to Northbrook Court to get to a job.”
“Or the beach,” Rotering added. She noted the effect it had on her and her friends when she was a Highland Park High School student 32 years ago. “The buses first came into town when I was in high school. It empowered us and gave us independence."
Ross pointed out the bike racks on the new hybrid buses, which will allow students and others to take advantage of North Shore bike trails without relying on a car to get the bikes there.
Dold sees the partnership between Pace and Highland Park as an example of effective intergovernmental cooperation. He also sees potential for a federal role.
“We need to be responsive and when we see something like this we will,” Dold said.
Another program Dold appreciated was Pace’s Shuttle Bug, an initiative that helps get people from the local Metra stations to bigger places of employment. Large employers in the area work with Pace to have buses at train stations during peak commuting times.
“It gets people from Metra to places like Discover and Abbot,” Dold said.