Public transportation options grow with Will County jobs

Brock A. Stein | 5/11/2017, midnight
With his office near a bus route on Route 53 in Joliet, Will County board member Herb Brooks has seen ...

With his office near a bus route on Route 53 in Joliet, Will County board member Herb Brooks has seen first-hand the need for public transportation options for residents in his district.

That's especially true for District 8 residents living in Joliet who may be looking for work at one of the three warehouse sites that have opened in recent years at Joliet's CenterPoint intermodal sites. Brooks said he has Camden Logistics, IKEA and one of the two Amazon.com warehouse locations in

his district. He said he encourages the continued economic development which brings more jobs to the area as long as there are options for low-income residents to get to and from work.

"What good are the jobs if nobody can get to them?," he said.

He said he's been vocal about increasing those options especially for residents who could get a boost from jobs that pay $14-$15 per hour along with full benefits and in some cases offer tuition reimbursement.

"The biggest problem out here with the intermodals is a lot of people of Joliet can get jobs but unfortunately many of them don't have transportation," he said. He said it's a question that he's asked since the site has become a center for job growth in his district as well as Will County overall.

"They don't have cars, there's no bus route so what do you do?," said Brooks who noted that he hopes to see a more "proactive" approach when it comes to planning for further CenterPoint expansion that includes options for public transportation.

Joliet officials have taken that that proactive approach with their long-range planning, including a recent plat approval in April for the Phase 16 expansion at CenterPoint. The site of a planned 752,000 square foot warehouse at CenterPoint, it also includes a lot for a future Pace bus drop

off point according to city documents.

Transportation has also been at the forefront of planning in Will County in recent months as officials there in conjunction with CMAP recently introduced an online poll that residents can take to steer the use of funds for future projects. In April, the county also unveiled an interactive kiosk at the county building in downtown Joliet where residents can offer their input on where transportation dollars should be spent as far out as the year 2050.

Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, media relations manager for Pace, said that the bus service has expanded its menu of options for suburban riders in recent years and has worked with the county on those long-range planning goals as well as the 'On to 2050' study.

In an email, Skogsbakken said that Pace changed its Route 504 bus line in 2016 "to improve access to Laraway Crossings business park" and later that year also "implemented additional trips to better meet shift times." She further added that the company planned for more refinements to bring better access to the Laraway Crossings site.

Other routes include the 512 bus route which includes morning and evening trips to parts of CenterPoint including the Mars Distribution Center. Its Route 511 bus service also makes trips to the Mars facility using a special bus turnaround and incorporates updates via GPS to give riders arrival and departure times. The company also works to adjust schedules and "to better align arrivals and departures with worker shift times," she said.

She said that Pace has been working with employers at the sites to provide bus service "to determine where employees were coming from to help guide" the process.

They also work with companies to develop customized commuting plans including car and van pools and rideshare programs and help market the offerings to employees.

"Each facility is different and their transit plan is developed based on their specific facility," said Skogsbakken.