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Bus-sted: City says traffic aides will enforce Chicago Ave. and Western Ave. bus lanes

1:53 PM CST on January 7, 2020

A driver blocks the Chicago Avenue bus lane near Clark Street. Photo: CDOT

When it comes to speeding up bus service, bus lanes are basically only as good as their enforcement. That's a factor in why, while camera-enforced express bus routes in cities like New York are seeing significant speed improvements, Chicago's poorly enforced Loop Link corridor has seen only modest speed gains. One of the issues is that enforcing bus lanes with traffic cameras isn't currently legal in Illinois, although Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot says she wants to get legislation passed in Springfield to legalize it.

In the meantime, that raises the question, what's the point of Chicago's $20 million Bus Priority Zones program, which is building new stretches of bus lanes on high ridership streets, if motorists are just going to drive and park in them with impunity? For example, here's some footage from late December that shows how well the new bus lanes on Chicago Avenue in River North were working out during the morning rush.

Chicago Ave bus lane completely blocked this morning by double-parked @Starbucks customers. @cta @ChicagoDOT @streetsblogchi

— Patrick Williams (@_PatrickW2) December 23, 2019

On the bright side, the Chicago Department of Transportation announced yesterday that there will be a new wave of enforcement of the rush-hour no stopping / no standing restrictions in the new bus lanes on Chicago, as well as Western Avenue near the Western/Armitage Blue Line station. Parking enforcement aides from the Chicago Department of Finance will be doing most of the ticketing, with the CTA providing funding to help pay for their labor. Police officers may also write tickets as needed in case of emergency or public safety concerns. The fine is $100.

The aides will be out ticketing on weekdays on these stretches:

    • Chicago Avenue (Larrabee to Michigan)
    • Eastbound: 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday-Friday
    • Westbound: 7:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday-Friday
    • Chicago Avenue (May to Sangamon)
    • Eastbound: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., Monday-Friday
    • Westbound: 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday-Friday
    • Western Avenue (Bloomingdale to McLean)
    • Southbound: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m., Monday-Friday
    • Northbound: 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday-Friday

CDOT also recently installed bus lanes on 79th Street near the Red Line station. However, a city official said that since that area was already a permanent no stopping / no standing zone, "it’s not something new that we needed to highlight."

Bus lane on 79th Street near the Red Line stop. Photo: CDOT
Bus lane on 79th Street near the Red Line stop. Photo: CDOT
Bus lane on 79th Street near the Red Line stop. Photo: CDOT

In addition to the red-painted lanes, the new features include new overhead signage and "queue jump signals" that allow buses to move through an intersection ahead of regular traffic, similar to a leading pedestrian interval Walk signal. (The Loop Link corridor has had those for years.)

CTA bus corridors being considered for future upgrades include: #8 Halsted Street, #53 Pulaski Road , #63 63rd Street and #77 Belmont Avenue.

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