News Local/State

Bus Company Could Face Tens Of Thousands Of Dollars In Fines

The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.

The James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. Robert Martinez/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Illinois Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau is conducting an investigation into private bus company Suburban Express for possible violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

This comes after the company sent an email to customers over the weekend that said they would find “passengers like you. You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.”

Karyn Bass Ehler is the chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau. Although she can’t discuss many details of this particular case, she told Illinois Public Media’s Brian Moline exactly what part of the Illinois Human Rights Act that Suburban Express may have violated, relating to access to public accommodations.

“(It's) based on an individual’s either race, national origin, gender, and in Illinois, sexual orientation and gender identity as well,” Bass Ehler said.

Bass Ehler says if anyone has information on this case, they can call the Civil Rights Bureau at 877-581-3692, or go to

Suburban Express, which operates shuttles from the University of Illinois Urbana campus to the Chicago suburbs and O'Hare Airport, did post an apology to its Facebook page on Monday night. It is embedded below.

Earlier in the week, the University of Illinois issued a statement condemning the emails that Suburban Express sent to its customers, saying that they were "in direct opposition to the values of this university.”

It's not the first time that the private bus company has created controversy. In 2013, Suburban Express filed more than 120 small claims lawsuits against customers that the company claimed had violated its terms and conditions. They later dropped those lawsuits.

Then in 2014, the owner of Suburban Express, Dennis Toeppen, was arrested for online harassment after he was charged with making an obscene comment with the intent to offend in an email to a customer who had written a negative review for his company.