Downtown bus passengers can look forward to quicker travel times as the CTA Loop Link BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system is set to begin service on Sunday. Under construction since March, the $32 million joint CTA/CDOT infrastructure improvement project is Chicago's first operational example of BRT. Utilizing bright red, bus-only lanes with limited stops along Washington and Madison, the new Loop Link better connects the Metra stations at the western edge of the Loop with Michigan Avenue to the east. It is expected to be used by 1,000 CTA buses operating across six different routes during each typical weekday.
The hope is that faster service along two of the Loop's busiest arterial streets will lead to a sizable uptick in bus ridership and a reduced number of passenger cars and privately operated shuttles ferrying employees between rail hubs and the likes of Prudential Plaza, Aon Center, etc. According to CDOT findings, current CTA buses in the Loop travel as slowly as 3 mph during peak rush periods — a speed no faster than walking. The goal of the Loop Link is to boost bus speeds to a less-frustrating 12-15 mph average by offering express service via the dedicated lanes.
The new BRT service also streamlines the least efficient aspect of public bus operation: the time spent stationary during the loading and unloading of passengers. Stops along the Loop Link corridor consist of raised, train station-like platforms that allow riders to easily and quickly embark and disembark at a level equal to that of their bus. To further cut down on loading times, the BRT offers passengers an opportunity to pre-pay fares before their bus arrives. While the pre-pay option will not be ready in time for Sunday's launch, the feature will be hopefully rolled-out by the CTA at a future date to be announced.
Investment in the Loop Link also yields dividends for Chicago's ever-growing number of two-wheel commuters with the addition of newly constructed protected bike lanes located neatly between the raised BRT platforms and curb. East-west travel through the Loop will be safer and less contentious with cars, buses, and cyclists no longer competing for the same precious on-street real estate. If Sunday's dress rehearsal goes to plan, the Loop Link should be a big hit come Monday morning's rush hour commute.
·Chicago Will Launch CTA Bus Service on the Loop Link December 20 [City of Chicago]
·Loop Link [Official website]
·CDOT Making Steady Progress on New Loop Link BRT Project [Curbed Chicago]
·All previous BRT coverage [Curbed Chicago]