South Cook County – Will County Transit Service Restructuring Study

Pace Suburban Bus Service


Develop and apply sophisticated market segmentation-based planning techniques to improve the effectiveness of suburban transit services in support of the South Cook County – Will County Transit Service Restructuring Study.

Pace’s Challenge

The southern and southwestern suburbs of Chicago had changed significantly since bus service was last comprehensively evaluated.  Pace needed a defensible process of evaluating travel markets, identifying proposed service recommendations, and building consensus among a wide range of stakeholders.

Our Approach

Cambridge Systematics developed and applied a sophisticated transit service planning strategy based on a market research effort that used household travel surveys and choice experiments to define market segments based on customer attitudes and preferences about personal travel.  The strategy was applied to inform service planning decisions and make service recommendations.  Key elements of the strategy include:

  • Conducting a stated-preference household travel survey consisting of travelers’ actual daily travel patterns, observed mode choice behavior, attitudes toward everyday travel, and responses to a stated choice experiment.
  • Identifying market segments using the travel pattern, behavioral, and attitude information from the surveys in combination with statistical factor analysis.
  • Mapping the incidence of market segments across the six-county Chicago metropolitan region and develop mode choice models for each segment to identify their relative tradeoffs associated with personal travel.
  • Identifying the most “transit competitive” origins and destinations by combining the market segmentation results with parking costs, travel patterns, congestion delays, development density, and other factors.
  • Developing an interactive geographic information system (GIS)-based Service Planning Tool (SPT) that applied the relative incidence of market segments across the region and segment-specific mode choice models to predict ridership impacts of service changes targeted at specific markets.  The customized TSP tool generates near-instantaneous changes in estimated ridership and conducts unlimited iterations to refine service strategies, support the development of detailed operating plans, and support transit service policy decisions.

The objective results gained from the market research and a detailed analysis of existing transit operations were presented to the public and other stakeholders through an extensive public involvement process.

Project Results

The market research and operational analysis results were applied to the development of short-, medium-, and long-term service recommendations in a large area of the southern suburbs, representing about one-third of the Pace service area in suburban Chicago.  Because of the extensive public involvement and the strong market-based foundation for recommendations, public acceptance was achieved relatively easily and the stature of the agency as a community partner was enhanced.

Pace has implemented the first round of service changes.  The ridership on routes with some of the most significant changes has increased and customer satisfaction has improved.  Pace is using the TSP tool to evaluate service changes in other parts of the Chicago region.