Help Us Promote Loop Link Enforcement With #NotaCTABus Twitter Campaign

Bus rapid transit has the potential to be a cost-effective way to move people quickly and efficiently across Chicago, without the buses getting slowed down by congestion caused by private vehicles. However, if the bus-only lanes aren’t enforced, it hamstrings efforts to speed up the buses.

Ever since the CTA’s Loop Link system launched last December, downtown bus speeds have shown limited improvement. Things seem to have gotten better since the agency recently eliminated a preliminary rule requiring bus operators to approach the raised platform stations at a snail-like 3 mph.

However, although the lanes are clearly marked “CTA Bus Only,” it’s still common to see shuttle  buses, delivery trucks, taxis, ride-share vehicles, and private cars in the lanes. This isn’t just a minor annoyance. It’s a big deal because if lane enforcement continues to be a major issue and CTA bus speeds don’t get faster, that will make it less likely the city will implement dedicated bus lanes on other routes, such as the proposed Ashland Avenue BRT route.

The problem 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 earlier this year, they were fairly unapologetic, arguing that their drivers don’t have much choice but to use the lanes for pick-ups and drop-offs.

The CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation have told me the problem is on their radar. “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,” CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman said in April.

While other cities like New York use traffic cameras to keep other drivers out of their bus-only lanes, the Loop Link lanes aren’t camera enforced. New Illinois legislation would be needed to add traffic cams to Loop Link and, since automated enforcement is already highly controversial, that would likely be a non-starter in Springfield.

Increased ticketing of Loop Link scofflaws by police or Office of Emergency Management and Communications traffic enforcement aides might be another solution. Perhaps there’s a way that ticketing stings or regular enforcement could be funded by revenue from the fines.

In the meantime we here at Streetsblog Chicago, along with the good folks from the Active Transportation Alliance and the Metropolitan Planning Council, have brainstormed a way to make sure this issue stays on the city’s radar, and to remind the owners of private bus lines, delivery companies, cab and ride-share companies, that it’s not OK for their drivers to use the Loop Link lanes. We’re launching a new social media campaign: When you see a commercial vehicle in one of the red lanes, post it on Twitter with the hashtag #NotaCTABus and tag the company, as well as the CTA (@cta) and CDOT (@ChicagoDOT). Feel free to tweet photos of private cars as well.

The #NotaCTABus campaign promises to be a good way to raise awareness about the issue, and it will also help decision makers get a sense of the frequency of Loop Link violations. With your we can encourage the companies to do the right thing by requiring their drivers to stop breaking the law. The campaign may also help convince the city to do some targeted enforcement.

We’re looking forward to reading your #NotaCTABus tweets.

  • planetshwoop

    Happy to start.

    Will we be doing bike lanes next?

  • There’s already a campaign for that, but no one’s paying attention, and frankly it isn’t as important as enforcing an expensive CTA bus lane right now. Use #enforce940060 so the tweets and locations can be monitored.

    However, if you know of a particular problem spot – like a dumpster blocking the bike lane – please email me ASAP.

  • ardecila

    I don’t really have a problem with private buses using the lanes, to be honest. That meme with the street full of cars vs the single bus still holds true whether the bus is owned by the government or a private company. Buses are important to the city because they’re space-efficient, it shouldn’t matter who owns the bus.

    A truly sensible policy would be to license the private buses to use the same lanes and platforms as CTA buses, maybe even the new bus terminal at Union Station. The private buses serve demand on door-to-door routes that CTA can’t cover, and still lure people out of their cars all the same.

    The city’s utter failure to expand and link up transit lines downtown is in part to blame for the rise of private buses, anyway. Office development has expanded from the Loop to River North, Mag Mile, West Loop, and Illinois Center. That’s a vast, congested territory for commuters to navigate through, but while all that growth was happening CTA did almost nothing to meet the new demand for transit. Enter private buses, funded by the new developments directly.

  • Cameron Puetz

    Without better integration between the CTA and Metra, private buses are necessary for offices in River North, Lake Shore East, and the Mag Mile to be considered Metra accessible. Cracking down on these shuttle buses without offering a transit alternative is encouraging suburban commuters to Loop adjacent neighborhoods to drive.

  • Cameron Puetz

    A Twitter campaign, that’ll fix the underlying design and policy issues that created this problem.

  • PKDickman

    Cars and trucks are one matter, but under the MCC there is no difference between BRT lanes and “Bus lanes”

    It is perfectly legal for private buses, inter-urban buses, school buses, and even church vans to use these lanes.
    Twitter won’t change that, only the city council can.

  • The biggest problem is when the private buses stop in the transit lane to discharge or pick up customers. That massively slows down CTA buses.

  • I’m assuming that the twitter campaign is a tool to use the membership of Active Trans and MPC and the readers of Streetsblog to collect a data set of scofflaws. Then I assume that the next step is to take the dataset to the owners and managers of the business scofflaws to insist that they educate their drivers.

    For example one, take the FedEx driver. There are four lanes on that street. The FedEx driver chose to block the bus lane rather than the traffic lane. If they were on a street without a bus lane they would have blocked a car traffic lane. They need to be taught to always block car traffic lanes and never a bus lane. That is a doable and even workable approach.

    For example two, take the Aries Charter driver. That one is harder. If the charter is just driving on the lane then there is little excuse for the diver to use the CTA lane. Yet I agree with the other commenter that in terms of using the limited loop geometry it is a wash as either private or public bus use helps loop people movement. Here the bigger issue is pickup and drop-off. Drop-off is station design not BRT design. Pickup is a client issue. The client should be providing the pickup location. Now granted perhaps they lost their curb location with the arrival of the Loop Link. Then yes perhaps the CTA should offer a charter service for them. Or the driver must stop in a traffic lane and stand in the bus lane to direct passengers and CTA buses while loading. So perhaps there is an education solution here for Charter buses as well that the twitter campaign can collect a good data set for.

    Cars. There will always be a very small percentage of scofflaw car drivers. The only option is either vigorous police enforcement or camera enforcement.

  • And so does the picking up and discharging of CTA passengers slow the process. I see ardecila as arguing the meta issue of what is best for people movement in a limited geometry. And in that cars are the enemy and buses of any sort the friend.

    Perhaps it is time to take over another lane for buses? Two for buses and two for cars seems less unfair than the three for cars and one for buses now.

  • The Loop Link IS the better integration between the CTA and Metra. Next the CTA should go into direct competition with the private buses by offering direct shuttle services that can out-compete because they have a dedicated busway. You might argue that is unfair competition but the private companies can always build their own subway if they don’t like it. :)

  • johnaustingreenfield

    https://www.chicagocode.org/9-12-060/

    “When a bus lane is designated and indicated by appropriate signs or markings, it shall be unlawful for any vehicle other than an *authorized* bus or a vehicle servicing a bus to enter or use such lane, except when making a right hand turn, or to access a driveway or other allowable curbside parking or loading location.”

  • Anne A

    Except that Loop Link meets only a portion of the need. It’s a partial solution that leaves a lot of gaps. I recognize that the private shuttles fill a lot of those gaps, but their operations are causing a lot of problems.

  • Cameron Puetz

    Loop Link is an improvement in physical integration between the CTA and Metra, but without fare integration the CTA is going to be a tough sell for Metra commuters. Adding $80/month in transit costs ($2/ride * 2 rides/day * 5 days/week * 4 weeks/month) is going to push people toward driving.

  • PP

    LoopLink’s implementation has been atrocious from the beginning. It seems like officials wanted to set this up for failure.

  • hopeyglass

    nobody’s asking you to take a few seconds to do something simple that could have some traction, but how long did it take you to come up with that elucidative zinger full of nuanced design and policy analysis?

  • FlamingoFresh

    I’m not sure who’s responsible for this per say but whoever is responsible for the construction and implementation of this BRT facilities without properly supplying them with the necessary equipment in making them effective should be removed from their position. What’s the point of implementing and innovative system without properly addressing its possible short comings. It appears to me that they didn’t take this problem into consideration beforehand because if they did they would have realized that if you don’t prevent non CTA vehicles from blocking and using the BRT then the system will become ineffective. My mind is blown by how incompetence of the people running this city. They consistently make great innovative projects unsuccessful by failing to address these problems before implementation. Thus, convincing the public that these projects are a waste of time and crippling the forward thinking mindset that can better us as a whole. Get these people who are responsible for these failures out of here and bring me in.

  • Cameron Puetz

    “I’m assuming that the twitter campaign is a tool to use the membership of Active Trans and MPC and the readers of Streetsblog to collect a data set of scofflaws. Then I assume that the next step is to take the dataset to the owners and managers of the business scofflaws to insist that they educate their drivers.”

    The purpose of the twitter campaign is to give people a place to vent. The dataset has no value. Who outside of ATA members and Streetsblog readers knows about the hashtag? Who is going to look at this dataset? The owners know who they are and don’t care. The public knows who they are by the giant logos on the sides of buses running routine routes. The police can’t issue a ticket based on tweet. I except this to be as effective as the #enforce940060 hashtag for bike lane violations.

  • rohmen

    Honestly, even with police/camera enforcement, this is going to be an issue, as many delivery companies simply build in the tickets as part of operation costs in the loop. There were articles a while back in the major news sites (and maybe even here) talking about how FedEx, UPS, etc. come in and basically negotiate tickets down after they’re racked them up for the year. Sure, that can be addressed, but the political will is likely lacking in the Rahm administration. If not closely watched, increased enforcement is really just window dressing to make it look like the City is trying to stop things.

  • Jacob Wilson

    Anyone else struck by the irony that a company called ‘Free Enterprise’ (which shuttles tax evading suburbanites to their jobs) is mooching off of public infrastructure?

  • david vartanoff

    Spot on about fare integration!!! IINM Metra is required to go with ventra in the near term. The obvious deal should be cross honoring of monthly and single rides in all CTA served areas.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Active Trans & MPC will be using their PR networks to promote the campaign.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Tax evading?

  • Jacob Wilson

    Yup. It’s such an ingrained part of our system now we hardly think about it but that’s a fundamental part of what suburbs are. Before the suburbs (which was not long ago really, how soon we forget) people lived and worked in the same municipality. That meant you created economic activity and paid taxes to the city that provided the infrastructure and opportunity to do so.

    Then came the highways. Those who could afford a car (white middle class and wealthy people) left for the suburbs. Not only did this (plus their ‘urban renewal’ projects) destroy the physical streetscape of many neighborhoods but they also removed most of the tax revenue.

    Now you may say: “The white flighters don’t owe the city their tax revenue”. That’s just false. There would be no economic activity in the first place were it not for the city. It continues today, Chicago is the economic engine of the entire region yet it’s infrastructure and public services are crumbling.

    This is why some municipalities have a commuter tax and hopefully this will be part of a solution for Chicago.

  • Fun fact, these two cultural phenomena are almost exactly contemporaneous:

    ** Suburban life as we know it today, with rigid nuclear families and low density, dependent on cars
    ** Rigidly defining blue as for boys and pink as for girls

    Both these things are treated as if they’ve existed basically forever in the US, but they’re barely three generations old. My grandparents could remember a time before both of them, and I’m only 40.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    The suburbs in some cases are older than much of Chicago. But didn’t take off for the masses until after WWII. At that time they were pretty much out of room in Chicago and apparently weren’t interested in annexing anymore land.

  • Jacob Wilson

    The suburbs were not created because there wasn’t room (though a case could be made for some of the adjacent suburbs like Berwyn or Cicero which are very dense). Like most cities during the post war era Chicago lost a huge amount of it’s population and never recovered to this day! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Chicago

    Also Chicago is not terribly dense when you take into account the entire municipality. Sure the lakefront can’t take a lot more density but if the city as a whole was say the density of Paris we could fit about 10 million people in the city limits!

    There were many reasons for the creation of the suburbs that the auto made possible ranging from racism to tax evasion (read: don’t want to share with black and brown people) to safety, post war isolationism, etc. but running out of room was NOT one of them.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Um, don’t the people in the suburbs still pay taxes?

  • Jacob Wilson

    Yes but not to the city in which they’re employed. They pay taxes to their suburb. That’s the whole problem.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    They also don’t use our schools, libraries, police, and so on.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Paris is only 40 square miles, our population density centered around downtown is probably much greater than the city as a whole.

  • The dataset could also be take to the media. My guess is that there would be some interest in such a story. But I agree that a twitter campaign by itself will likely have little effect.

  • simple

    You have clearly never had any meaningful role in implementing a public works project if you think you can accomplish a major reconfiguration of a public street without any compromises. If you really think it’s that easy and only “incompetence of the people running this city” stands in the way of perfection, get off your internet high horse and convince your state representatives to pass a law that allows photo-enforcement of these lanes. Or convince the City Council that manual enforcement is a priority use of Police Department resources. You make it all sound so easy — so I’m looking forward to results, pronto!

  • The problems are caused by the cars. The shuttles are alleviating the problems not causing them, My current preferred solution is taking more lanes away from cars. Or congestion charging,

  • simple

    May we also call out bicyclists for using the red lane on Madison? How do the private buses, which don’t stop on Madison, cause any more interference with CTA buses than bicyclists do?

  • Pet P

    Bicyclists can ride in any lane they want.

  • Peter

    If only there were some way to put public transportation above or below street level, so they wouldn’t get affected by traffic…

  • FlamingoFresh

    Yeah, you’re right I haven’t been apart of a public works project but I’m well aware that these projects are constructed with the intent of being successful according to plan. So wouldn’t it make sense they get all their ducks in a row before they blow all this money on a project that’s set up for failure.

    You want me to call them and convince my state representatives to pass a law? Look, if I the City Council is aware of these problems and they need to be convinced that passing a photo enforcing law is necessary for this system to be successful then I guess that proves their incompetence. And I’m sure they’re aware of it too. If these projects are being funded by the government, don’t you think it would be in the best interest of the City Council to see it through and make sure it is being addressed from all angles. Whether the information is coming from the entities that constructed the project or the public works council responsible for it, the chain of command must be communicating at all times. I understand they are busy and have a list of things to do but you’d think for a project as new and as innovative as a BRT to the City of Chicago that they’d that it’d be in their best interest for the city (operationally and financially) to make sure it’s successful. i.e. If they are be notified that the BRT lanes are being blocked make a conservative effort to pass policy as quickly as possible to prevent that from happening.

    They’ve had plenty of time to make moves and pass policy. I’m aware of this budget stalemate going on in Springfield by the very same people you are telling me I should “convince” to pass some policy to legitimize a multi-million dollar project. Get with the times, new innovative projects require new laws and policy, don’t sit on your butt and act surprised it didn’t work because you didn’t cater to the needs of the project.It’s time to act and do what needs to be done.

    It seems you have settled for and accepted this idea that it’s alright to spend millions of dollars on projects that fall flat due to the lack of coordination and communication amongst the government and its respective entities. That’s part of their job. Quit making excuses for them and hold them accountable. These are the same bums hurting the economy of the state by not coming to agreement on a state budget. If they’re not doing anything, then get them out of there. Put some people in there that are proactive and get stuff done. You possibly can’t be satisfied how things have been handled in this state. It’s a complete mess.

    It’s funny that you expect me to be the one that fixes it. I’m not on any “internet high horse” and I’m definitely in no position to correct the problem. I make it sound so easy because it can be. You put the right people in the right positions and have them work together rather than against, then you can get things done. However, this government is so broken on a national level that a fair amount of people in power abuse it and cater to their lobbyist when they should be looking for the best interest of the people.

  • southsidecyclist

    In my neighborhood as a property owner, tax payer and registered vehicle owner the city has no problems to send a public servant down my street and even up into MY DRIVEWAY to photograph my licence plate and infraction when I let my car overhang the side walk by 12 inches. If this injustice can be foisted on me there is no grounds for not issuing photo citations for vehicle using bus lanes and bike lanes improperly. This city is so cash strapped that every tax and fee has to be maximized yet brazen scofflaws are allowed to use the public way as their personal parking lot.

  • Keep it civil, please.

  • planetshwoop

    I think there should be a strategy to go after the customers of the service too. In other words, maybe the Free Enterprise System isn’t interested. But as the picture notes, I doubt AonHewitt or Prudential would be very excited to see their names associated with illegal activity. I bet Free Enterprise would be more interested in taking their call than the ATAs to fix this. Which I’ll keep in mind when I participate in the campaign.

  • BLOCKTHOSELANES

    What a stupid idea. If the city thinks they can reconfigure a street so traffic is completely clogged, and it really doesn’t do anything to speed up the buses on those routes, and there is no longer any place for pick ups and drop offs, what do they expect people to do?
    Go ahead and have your “shaming” campaign. Do you think any of the violators will care? I certainly wouldn’t. While I don’t regularly drive in the bus lanes, I will if I have to. Today I saw a truck blocking one of the traffic lanes on Washington to make a delivery. Am I going to sit behind the truck, or go around it in the bus lane?

    This entire project is a complete disaster, and needs to be torn up and return the streets back to the way they were. I love it when I see the free enterprise and AON center buses driving in the lanes. It makes me laugh, and makes me laugh even more to think that people here think a “shaming” campaign is going to make a difference, or that the drivers of those buses even care.

    To all of the people who think this is a worthwhile idea – why don’t you get a job and do something meaningful with you life.
    Now get the hell out of my way!

  • BLOCKTHOSELANES

    I doubt that they would care. It’s about getting people where they need to be in a timely manner. Don’t waste your time participating in this “campaign”.

  • BLOCKTHOSELANES

    I know, right? Must be nice for some people to have so much time on their hands to do something so meaningless.

  • John

    I’m not convinced that the private shuttles are actually slowing down CTA buses. There is enough capacity to share the space.

  • David Henri

    Absolutely! If one could do a transfer from Metra to CTA, the BRT would really be useful.

    But replying to the original post, why is enforcement so lacking? We can’t keep cars out of the bike lanes. We can’t keep them out of the bus lanes. Why isn’t there any enforcement?

  • David Henri

    A dumpster blocking a bike lane? Are you referring to Milwaukee and Elston?

  • That one was permitted to be there for the building construction.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG