Evanston’s Transportation and Parking Committee is scheduled tonight to discuss the limited Sunday bus service in town and the free bus service provided by the Village of Niles.
Maps that city staff has produced for the committee’s review indicate that roughly 90 percent of Evanston’s land area is within a quarter mile walk of an active bus route on weekdays, but that drops to about 30 percent on Sundays.
Some advocates for increased Sunday bus service have promoted the example of the Village of Niles, which provides, through an agreement with Pace, three routes serving the village seven days a week that don’t charge riders a fare.
Regional Transportation Authority data shows that ridership on the Niles free routes has been declining. In March 2019, the most recent month for which data is available, the three routes saw a combined total of 680 average weekday riders. a 10 percent drop from 759 during March 2017.
Projecting the March 2019 figures for weekdays and weekends for a full year would indicate about 225,000 total rides taken in a year, which means each “free” ride costs taxpayers about $6.67 cents.