Eyes on the Street: Loop Link Lane Scofflaws Continue to Be a Problem

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A cab driver blocks a bus in the Loop Link lane.

It’s been four months since the Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor launched downtown, but it seems like there are still some bugs to be worked out of the system.

The two main issues I’m aware of are bus speeds and private vehicles using the red lanes, which are marked “CTA Bus Only.” The city projected that the system, which also includes raised boarding platforms, and white “queue jump” traffic signals to give buses a head-start at lights, would double cross-Loop speeds from the previous, glacial rush-hour average of 3 mph to 6 mph.

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A private car blocks one of the red lanes.

However, not long after the launch, bus speeds still averaged about 3 mph, largely due to a rule requiring the operators to approach the stations at that speed in order to avoid crashing into the platforms or creaming passengers with their rear-view mirrors. The speeds seemed to improve a bit in subsequent weeks, although CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman told me today that the 3 mph platform restriction is still in place.

“Performance and ridership are trending in the right direction but we still don’t have enough data to draw meaningful conclusions,” Tolman added.

The fact that private bus lines, motorists and taxis drivers sometimes drive or stop in the lanes can’t be helping Loop Link speeds either. This is particularly common with the charter bus lines that ferry office workers to and from Metra stations. When I talked to staff from The Free Enterprise System and Aries Charter Transportation last month, they were fairly unapologetic, arguing that their drivers don’t have much choice but to use the lanes for pick-ups and drop-offs.

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An Aries Charter Transportation bus in a Loop Link lane.

Today a reader who works as an urban planner sent us a fresh batch of photos of charter buses, cars, and cabs in the red lanes. “I walk, cycle, or ride the bus through the Loop Link routes every day and see at least five violations in the 20 minutes of my trip,” her wrote. “In my experience, all of the violations are drivers trying to get past areas of heavy traffic. It is obvious that the answer to this problem is enforcement, of which there is none.” Unlike some BRT systems, Loop Link doesn’t feature camera enforcement.

I sent the images to Tolman. “We are aware of the issue and we are working with the city to make sure the traffic rules are enforced so that Loop Link delivers improved transit service as intended,” he responded.

Hopefully the police department will step up the ticketing of Loop Link lane lawbreakers, since this is key to ensuring the system is judged a success. “I would hate to see future BRT projects in Chicago and elsewhere curbed due to the failures of the Loop Link,” wrote the reader.

  • Guy Ross

    Which?

  • Guy Ross

    Is it also a federal offense to use a big fat permanent marker to signify that that auto was blocking a bike lane when riding past with a perfectly horizontal stripe at chest waist height?

  • Guy Ross

    I would check with your black neighbor: I bet he get’s pulled over for a cracked windshield, or a burn out light, or a loose muffler, or a crooked baseball cap, or not signalling, or . . .. . ..

  • Guy Ross

    BINGO!

  • Dude, I lived in Austin. It’s my black neighbors I’m TALKING about.

  • BlueFairlane

    I believe that would be a misdemeanor under Illinois law.

  • BlueFairlane

    So that would be a “no.”

    I think the biggest limitation of the urban planner is an inability to include reality in their plans, which is why everything looks so clean and pretty in their architectural renderings. This causes them to focus on what people should do instead of on what people do, so they over-promise, miss obvious pitfalls, and leave the public that much more skeptical of the Next Big Thing. Regardless of the reasons behind the problems, the weak performance of the Loop Link has been a godsend for opponents of Ashland BRT.

  • neroden

    “Real crimes” like the black site at Homan Square where torture was being committed? Seems to me there’s a problem with the cops *being* the criminals. In more than one city.

  • neroden

    Not just for driving in a bus lane — for *intentionally* driving in a bus lane with the wilful intent to disrupt traffic, block bus traffic, and generally cause disruption.

    Accidentally driving in a bus lane due to ignorance pr confusion is one thing, and should call for a warning or a small fine.

    Deliberately being an antisocial, destructive jackass and harming hundreds of other people’s lives because you’re a jerk — that’s what jail was *invented* for. 24 hours behind bars might fix your attitude.

    Under our legal system, whether something is criminal often depends on intent. You’ve stated your *criminal intent* right here on this blog. If you proceed to carry it out, that’s the sort of thing you ought to be jailed for.

    I’m not trying to jail confused or lost motorists. But jail is appropriate for people who are violating the law deliberately, with intent to obstruct bus trafffic, entirely because they are jackasses. Like you stated your intention to do.

  • Or just because they think they’re too important to wait in line like every other car. They see empty space, it appears to them to be an obvious opportunity, and they use it.

  • al_langevin

    This whole project was a waste of millions of tax dollars. Let’s see removing traffic lanes and what’s going to happen? Even the Trib’s Blair Kamin proved how dumb Chicago’s BRT system was when he WALKED faster than BRT buses. Thanks for wasting our money. Next time spend it on bike facilities.

  • Guy Ross

    I’ll just stick to the myriad other vehicles then.

    Remember: carry a white one as well for the black cars.

  • cjlane

    Which what?

    Traffic enforcement cameras of *all sorts* require state legislation, even in home rule cities–that’s why Chicago had to go to Springfield in order to get the speed cameras, and the redlight cameras before that.

    It is why street sweeping parking bans are enforced with a person hand ticketing, rather than a mailed ticket from a camera on the sweeper, notwithstanding that the signs assert that there is camera enforcement.

    If you want more than that, do your on research, or hire a lawyer.

  • cjlane

    And buses, too! Everyone runs the red lights in the loop. And did so before CPD stopped caring.

  • cjlane

    NOBODY is getting pulled over right now. FOP would tell you its because CPD are afraid of being prosecuted for homicide if they pull someone over and shoot them 16 times within seconds, but its really because they can’t stand Rahm.

  • cjlane

    So, you’ve made out the case for jailing the CTU if they block traffic, and Critical Mass, when they block traffic and the Black Lives Matter protesters when they blocked traffic and the NATO protesters when they blocked traffic.

    Really progressive police state that you’ve got going there…

  • Larry

    And guess who pays the fine for a CTA bus running the red light? Taxpayers! Seriously: http://www.bettergov.org/news/red-light-cameras-ticket-cta-bus-drivers-but-taxpayers-charged

  • FlamingoFresh

    The city can’t expect the BRT to be successful if they don’t follow through with the implementation. Just because you construct something and put it there doesn’t mean it is going to work according to plan. Making the enforcement of BRT lanes a priority is necessary if they expect to see these lanes have any chance of succeeding.

    I’m sure beyond the presence of vehicles illegally using the lanes there are other issues facing these lanes, however, one won’t know that until each issue is addressed as they arise. Projects must be seen through to implementation and operations or else don’t waste your time and our money by building it in the first place.

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