Aldermen to discuss bus route changes, priority-based budgeting at council meeting


(Daily file photo by Clare Proctor)

Chris Canning, a member of the Pace Suburban Bus board of directors, addresses attendees at last Tuesday’s public hearing in Evanston. Aldermen will vote Monday on a resolution recommending that the proposed route changes be delayed to modify the service to address all Evanston residents’ needs.

Syd Stone, City Editor

Aldermen will vote on a resolution pertaining to Evanston Township High School/District 202 bus route issues and hear an update on the priority-based budgeting process at Monday’s special City Council meeting.

The Chicago Transit Authority proposed to discontinue the 205 Chicago/Golf Road CTA bus route, which includes direct stops to and from ETHS, and instead provide an alternate service via Pace Suburban Bus route 213.

However, city staff proposed a resolution — which Mayor Steve Hagerty requested be brought before the council — to delay the route changes in order to modify the service to address all Evanston residents’ needs. According to city documents, the proposed replacement for CTA Route 205 is “not an equivalent service” and provides an “undue hardship to transit riders.” The change in question would result in a “less accessible and less livable community,” according to the documents.

Evanston residents and other commuters voiced concerns at a public hearing last week about the proposal to cut the route, saying students would lack sufficient transportation to and from school.

“This is a terrible idea,” ETHS superintendent Eric Witherspoon said about the proposal at the Tuesday public hearing. “If we, as a community and a society, don’t take care of our children, what have we become? Do you think all the children are cookie-cutter, and they all have to be at the school at the same time?”

If passed, the resolution will be transmitted to the Pace board of directors and the CTA board of directors for their consideration.

City staff have also recommended that the council accept and place on file the update on the priority-based budgeting process and direct staff to move forward with the public outreach portion.

Aldermen heard the plan for a priority-based budgeting process — which comes as a response to an anticipated budget deficit of several million dollars — at the March 19 City Council meeting. City staff began by internally prioritizing about 150 programs and services provided by Evanston, according to city documents. The ratings were then discussed and decided upon by staff members from every city department.

The full list will be narrowed down to 54 low-relevance programs and services that will then be the focus of public outreach and be considered for changes during the 2019 budget process. According to city documents, these 54 programs — such as the Noyes Cultural Arts Center — are either mandated only by city code or are not required at all.

Following Monday’s council meeting, city staff will hold an open house on priority-based budgeting at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on May 24 to allow residents to give input in person.

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