For $2.25 cash, you can now get from downtown Evanston to O’Hare Airport in roughly the same time it would take in a cab or rideshare, but for a lot less money.

The Pace suburban bus system has inaugurated faster service, called Pulse, on the Route 250 Davis Street-O’Hare route, making only 17 stops instead of the potentially more-than-80 by the regular Route 250 Dempster Street run.

Besides fewer stops, the purple Pulse vehicles are equipped with computerized Transit Signal Priority technology, which keeps green lights green longer for the buses or makes red lights shorter.

Pulse buses average around 50 minutes between Davis Street and the O’Hare Multi-Modal Facility in off-peak periods, slightly more in rush hour.

Stops on the Pace Pulse route to O’Hare.

The limited-stop service cuts 15-25 minutes off of the old Route 250 schedule, depending on the time of day, although the fare has not changed.

Pulse buses are just running on Sundays until some time in the fall, to work out any kinks in the system. They will then operate daily, every 15-20 minutes.

The older, all-stops Route 250 buses will run as well, although not as frequently.

The Pulse buses debuted on the Dempster Street line on Sunday, Aug.13. According to Pace, 657 passengers rode Pulse that day, and 236 used the regular Route 250 local.

That total of 893 is a significant improvement over the average pre-Pulse summer last August, of 730.

That type of increase is what Pace, and other transit systems, are looking for, as they try new services to lure back passengers who left during COVID and have not returned to the bus (or train).

Pace also hopes that amenities, such as wi-fi on the Pulse vehicles, will help “sell” the bus to those who may not consider it as an option yet.

Heated shelters have been installed at some of the Pulse stops along the way, along with raised platforms for easier bus access.

A $10 million federal grant pays for the upgraded facilities and covers operating expenses for two years.

The end of the route at O’Hare is at the Multi-Modal Facility, where passengers have to hop on the airport tram to finish the trip. So that does add a bit of time to the trip, compared to a cab or rideshare which drops you off at the terminal.

But you don’t have to tip the bus driver.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. I rode it on Aug 13 and the service was excellent and speedy compared to the regular 250. The drivers both ways did, however, occasionally make extra stops to accommodate waiting or debarking passengers.
    The biggest improvement was service every 15 minutes on Sunday plus the hourly regular 250, compared to every half hour on Sundays daytime with the pre-pulse schedule.

  2. Is it possible to take the Pulse from OHare to Evanston on Sundays? If so, how often does it run from the multimodal facility?

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