CHICAGO (CBS) — The Pace suburban bus system is dreaming big – $2.3 billion big – trying to get in on potential federal funding down the line for some of the system’s long-term projects.

Long-term planning manager David Tomzik said Pace wants to better serve suburbanites who travel or need to travel between suburbs to get to jobs.

To do that, Pace wants more shoulder-riding express bus routes along area expressways. Pace already is allowed to run buses on the shoulder of the Stevenson Expressway during the morning and afternoon rush.

Similar express lanes for Pace buses have been planned for the Edens Expressway and Jane Addams Tollway.

Tomzik said ridership on the Stevenson express buses has jumped from 300 people per day in 2011 to more than 1,200 per day last year.

Pace also has begun planning more specially designed bus routes, known as Arterial Rapid Transit, like the one already in the works for Milwaukee Avenue between the Jefferson Park terminal and Golf Mill. That project is being funded with federal money.

“The full build-out plan calls for 24 ART corridors; 655 miles. There’s also 11 expressway corridors, and that totals around 230 miles of service,” Tomzik said.

He said providing better service means bringing in more bus riders, and taking more cars off the roads as fewer people opt to drive themselves.

“We also have technology upgrades, such as Wi-Fi in the vehicle, and we also will have USB ports for charging laptops, cell phone, and iPads,” Tomzik said.

The Pace bus system is lobbying the federal government to get in on a program that would provide money for transportation plans that are of national or regional significance.

Tomzik said a report will be turned in near the end of the year by the U-S Transportation Department. Those projects deemed of national or regional significance would be in line for a large chunk of federal money.

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