CHICAGO (WBBM) – West suburban officials have one idea about proposals to improve service on one of Pace’s most heavily-traveled bus routes. But riders in its focus groups have quite another.

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Both say they want faster, frequent service on Cermak Road, between the Pink Line and Oak Brook, but realize options are limited.

“People are skeptical about exclusive bus lanes in the corridor but still were interested in other ways of speeding up the bus, which would include eliminating stops, which some people had a preference for even if it was their own stop,” said the RTA’s Janine Faizin, who managed the preliminary study.

She said riders place a high priority on better shelters — or even train-style stations along what’s expected to be designated as Pace’s first “arterial bus rapid transit” route. Municipal officials doubted that would be important.

Riders place a higher importance on finding out when buses will arrive than whether they’re new, and said if the CTA and Metra can do it, so should Pace.

The current trip takes 55 minutes; Pace would like to cut that to 44 minutes or less.

The Cermak corridor is one of three on which Pace would like to test the bus-based rapid transit concept, which can include train-style stations and pre-payment by all riders. The others are along Milwaukee Avenue in the near northwest suburbs, and along Dempster Street from the CTA Yellow Line terminal to Arlington Heights.

Currently, it is served by Pace’s heavily-traveled 322/Cermak route, which continues on 22nd Street and Butterfield Road in DuPage County to the Yorktown Shopping Center. The rapid transit version could extend as far as Butterfield and I-355, and officials believe it could attract a lot of western Cook County riders traveling to jobs in Oak Brook.

The RTA has adopted the Cermak corridor route in order to allow it to get its feet wet with the concept, which has worked in many other U.S., Canadian and European cities. The concept was a favorite of the Bush administration because of its low upfront costs.

Critics say it does little to reduce pollution and can even add to it. Nonetheless, the concept has support on the RTA board.

“If we don’t look at something like this, then someone is going to come up with the wild idea of extending the Pink Line all the way to Oak Brook, which is a tremendously expensive project as are a lot of these other rail extension projects,” said suburban RTA board member Donald Totten.

By contrast, RTA Deputy Executive Director Leanne Redden said the cost of implementing the rapid transit model on Cermak could run from $30 million to $45 million.

The study is only preliminary, and Redden could not give a timetable for implementation of the rapid transit concept.