American City & County’s 2014 Crown Communities award winners
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Schaumburg, Ill. – Transportation
While the Village of Schaumburg has several transportation services within the community, the Chicago suburb depended on the Route 554 bus route as a lifeline to other nearby communities and as a link to the greater Chicago transit system. When the suburban bus agency announced in 2001 that it was shutting down the route due to insufficient fare revenue, village leaders knew they had a problem.
Almost immediately, the village joined its neighboring communities to preserve the service, even if it meant that the local governments would have to use general funds to subsidize the operation. For the next 13 years, Schaumburg led the way, nurturing the service and paying nearly $250,000 to maintain the route. The gamble has paid off.
Ridership has grown from 21,000 in 2001 to more than 145,000 in 2013 and is on a pace to exceed 150,000 in 2014. With rising ridership, the bus route has become self-sustaining, without the need for any subsidies from the partner communities.
For its perseverance and foresight, Schaumburg has been designated a Crown Community for Transportation.
“Continuing this service gave a transportation option to people who had few options,” says Richard Bascomb, the village’s transportation manager. “We’re encouraged that we thought outside the box. It’s a success story.”
Schaumburg is about 30 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, with a population of 75,000 residents. Route 554 provides access from high-density residential areas such as Towne Place West and Woodbury Place to multiple destinations for work, medical care and shopping, such as the Woodfield Mall. A major boost came when the service was extended to nearby Hanover Park, where travelers can now board the suburban rail line that runs from Elgin to downtown Chicago.
The village, along with its partner communities, worked hard to promote the service, which now includes Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates and Streamwood. Officials published articles in Schaumburg’s quarterly newsletter and weekly e-newsletter, on the village website, over its cable access channel and on transit information sheets for the Pace Suburban Bus Service of the Regional Transportation Authority, the local public transportation agency for Chicago area suburbs.
While work continues on building a sustainable ridership for the current service, its success has opened the possibilities of expansion of similar bus services throughout the metropolitan area.
Despite the successes, officials remain cautious. “We’re still in the initial stages of celebrating the success of this route,” Bascomb says.