VALPARAISO | The ChicaGo Dash will begin offering a fourth bus for commuters beginning April 1.
The city's Board of Public Works and Safety approved a lease Thursday with Free Enterprise Systems, which operates the express commuter service for the city, for $6,173 a month. The city will use the bus until the new bus arrives from Motor Coach Industries in June or July. It cost $619,897, of which 80 percent is federally funded.
City Planning Director Tyler Kent said the bus will leave the station at Campbell Street and Lincolnway at 6:20 a.m. weekday mornings, arriving in Chicago's Loop before 8 a.m. It will begin the return trip from Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street in Chicago at 4:25 p.m. and arrive at Village Station at 6:05 p.m.
The lease is in addition to the charge per trip and the gasoline surcharge the city pays Free Enterprise to operate the buses. Kent said the bus, which will be the second bus each morning, will help relieve the crowding on the current first two buses, which are sometimes full.
"Every morning I get questions about when the fourth bus is coming," he said. "I expect additional growth in ridership as fuel prices rise and toll expenses increase and the job market continues to improve."
The Dash averaged 93 riders each way during January for a total of 4,084. In February it registered 3,932 riders for an average of 98.3 a day each way. The top average was 100 in September.
The board also approved Kent's request for a one-month test run of DoubleMap on the V-Line intracity buses and, eventually, on the Dash. He said the computer application can be downloaded on phones to tell potential riders where the buses are at any moment and how soon they might arrive to pick them up.
The program was created by some Indiana University students who have now gone into business and are working with several transit agencies in Indiana and elsewhere. Kent said the system also can provide him with information on ridership, miles traveled, gallons of fuel used and other data needed for the federal reports he must file annually.
He said the system could be retrofitted to provide ticketing for the Dash, and it has an option that can locate upcoming intersections on the route and announce them on the bus. That would be useful for vision-impaired riders, but the city might have to equip the buses with speakers first.
The V-Line, which is expecting three replacement buses soon, had 9,251 riders in January. Individual routes were: Yellow, 3,441; Green, 3,570; Brown, 1,688; Orange, 364; and Red, 184. There were four riders picked up on special runs.