Eyes on the Street: Private Buses in the Loop Link BRT Lanes

It’s been about two months since the Loop Link bus rapid transit system launched, and the system is still facing some growing pains. The city hopes the network of dedicated bus lanes with platform stations will eventually double bus speeds along the corridor from the previous, glacial, 3 mph rush hour average, but so far it doesn’t seem like that target has been reached.

One of the main reasons is the CTA’s current policy of requiring bus operators to approach the platforms no faster than 3 mph to avoid striking passengers with mirrors. The agency plans to lift this speed limit once the bus drivers and customers get more comfortable with the system.

The Loop Link lane on the Madison Street bridge. Photo: John Greenfield

Another issue that needs to be addressed is unauthorized vehicles using the bus lanes. Unlike BRT systems in some other cities, the Loop Link lanes generally don’t have physical barriers to discourage the drivers of other buses and cars from entering them, and they’re not photo enforced.

So far, I haven’t witnessed or heard about major problems with car or taxi drivers in the Loop Link lanes. But a Streetsblog reader, who wished to remain anonymous, tells me there’s a recurring issue with non-CTA buses using the Loop Link lanes, especially on westbound Madison Street during the evening rush.

The reader sent us the videos in this post, showing private buses on the Madison bridge around 5 p.m. on a weekday. Although it’s hard to tell in the videos, the bridge has a red lane marked “CTA Bus Only,” delineated with flexible posts. Yes, the red paint on the bridge (unlike the red concrete used for most of the Loop Link lanes) has been chipping badly — the Chicago Department of Transportation says the contractor will be required to fix this.

It would be great if the city contacted the offending bus lines, The Free Enterprise System and the Aon Center shuttle, and ask them to remind their drivers not to use the Loop Link lanes. If that doesn’t work, the police department should do some ticketing stings.

As a staff member from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy told me, Chicagoans should try to be patient while the city works all the kinks out of the new system. But that trouble-shooting should include addressing all the issues that are currently slowing down CTA buses on the corridor, including unauthorized use of the lanes.


The Loop Link Bus Rapid Transit System Launches This Sunday

The long-awaited Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor, featuring dedicated bus lanes, limited stops, island stations, and other timesaving features, will begin operations this Sunday, December 20. Whether the new system is deemed to be a success or a failure by Chicagoans will be a crucial factor in whether the city moves forward with its […]

Eyes on the Street: On the First Day of Loop Link

Like kids unwrapping presents, travelers in downtown Chicago had some shiny new infrastructure to try out Sunday morning. The Loop Link bus rapid transit system debuted on a day when weekday traffic wasn’t an issue, although the central business district was packed with holiday shoppers. Monday will be the first big test of the system. […]