The city announced today that work will begin next year on the Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, a new transit center at Union Station and an elevated Washington/Randolph CTA station.
This is exciting news that will help make transportation downtown safer and more efficient for everyone.
With increasing demand to move around the Loop and limited space, the only way to reduce gridlock and make it easier to get around is by making riding transit, biking and walking more safe and convenient.
Nearly 80 percent of trips in the Loop are done by bus, bike or on foot, yet cars and taxis occupy most of the street space and cause congestion.
Buses account for only 4 percent of vehicles but move 47 percent of the people traveling in vehicles and 21 percent of all people moving through the Loop, including pedestrians.
Nearly 30,000 people per day will have quicker bus trips to and from work, the museum campus, Navy Pier and other destinations, and the improvements will also create more order and safety downtown for everyone."
Central Loop BRT is expected to be running by the end of 2015 and the new CTA station will be completed in 2016.
Buses will travel in dedicated bus-only lanes linking to commuter rail stations and traffic signals will be programmed to give buses a jump on other traffic at intersections.
According to the CTA, passengers will save an average of 7.5 minutes for trips of less than a mile.
Active Trans has been advocating for investment in BRT in Chicago for several years, and most recently we've been rallying support for projects in the Central Loop and Ashland corridors.
Prepayment to ease boarding at crowded bus stations is critical to successful BRT projects, and the CTA has committed to introducing prepayment at the Madison/Dearborn station, with plans to expand implementation of fare gates to all stations in the system eventually. We are hopeful this happens quickly as riders experience the benefits of prepayment and a faster trip.
The projects also represent progress in improving and expanding Chicago’s network of protected bike lanes. New protected bike lanes will be added to Clinton Street, Washington Street and Randolph Street. Clinton Street will include a two-way lane from Fulton to Harrison with access to transit at Ogilvie and Union Station.
The design of the Clinton lane will be similar to what now exists on Dearborn downtown. A recent study showed bicycle ridership on Dearborn increased 171 percent in its first year, 92 percent of cyclists felt safer and compliance with traffic laws was much higher than before the lane was introduced.
Rendering of the Central Loop BRT station courtesy of CTA.