WILL COUNTY – Will County today announced that it will be receiving a $200,000 grant from Pace Suburban Bus (Pace) to evaluate paratransit services in the county and identify future improvements. Pace announced the funding at the Oct. 21st meeting of the Will County Board.
“This is a major step in identifying solutions to our transportation challenges and providing more reliable paratransit options for those who need them most,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “We’re grateful for the support from Pace to strengthen our countywide paratransit network.”
The study will evaluate existing paratransit services in the county, identify gaps in service relative to community needs, and recommend systemwide improvements. The overall objective is to develop a sustainable, implementable plan for improving mobility options in Will County for targeted user groups, such as seniors, people with disabilities, and those with lower incomes.
“Pace’s mission is to provide safe and reliable public transportation to our region, but that doesn’t look the same in every community,” said Pace Chairman Rick Kwasneski. “We serve a diverse landscape and traditional bus service isn’t always the solution. These funds will support the exploration of alternative transportation solutions that meet the needs of Will County residents.”
The existing paratransit network consists of a variety of services, including through Pace, Will County Dial-A-Ride, and several local governments and non-profit organizations. Unlike a traditional bus service, which operates on a published and fixed route, paratransit services provide a flexible, on-demand service that responds to rider requests for travel within a specific service area. These services are often geared towards those with mobility limitations that prevent them from accessing scheduled bus service or live outside of an area served by scheduled bus service, such as a rural area.
“Paratransit services are a critical resource for many Will County residents, especially those with mobility issues or those who live in more rural areas,” said Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan. “The results of this study will move us closer to providing a consistent, reliable transportation option for residents throughout the county.”
Due to the size of the Will County region, the existing paratransit networks have faced several challenges over the years. Although the county has several paratransit services available, not all services operate when needed by residents, provide services to where residents want to go, or are designed for the populations that are most dependent on them. Additionally, the services do not often allow for residents to travel to locations outside of the county, such as employment opportunities, healthcare appointments, or social gatherings.
“Transit is a key piece of economic development especially when it means getting workers to jobs,” said Mike Fricilone, minority leader for the County Board. “The key to any successful transit program is sustainable funding. Hopefully this study will give Will County some ideas on how we can build on the previous paratransit success and guide us towards future improvements.”
“As a representative of a district that is both suburban and rural, I know the importance of transit and the ability to get to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store,” said Public Works Chairman Joe Van Duyne. “Having a current baseline of information on the services available with suggestions for future improvements will be valuable going forward in a proactive fashion.”
Pace’s announcement came as Pace presented the details of their proposed 2022 budget and how their expansion of regional services will benefit Will County.