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

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

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

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.


Daniel Hertz Sets the Record Straight on BRT

A recent Sun-Times piece gave airtime to old-school Chicago Department of Transportation traffic engineer Tom Kaeser, gloomily predicting that the CTA’s Ashland bus rapid transit plan will cause carmageddon. Last week, in the wake of that article, University of Chicago public policy grad student Daniel Hertz cleverly debunked some of the arguments against creating fast, […]

Help Us Promote Loop Link Enforcement With #NotaCTABus Twitter Campaign

Free Enterprise System please remind your drivers that red lanes are for @cta vehicles only. #NotaCTABus @fespress pic.twitter.com/PTmfQgzH7J — Streetsblog Chicago (@streetsblogchi) July 25, 2016 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 […]

Except for Pawar, Ashland Aldermen Sit on the Fence When It Comes to BRT

Ashland Avenue BRT could be a transformative project for Chicago, demonstrating the benefits of re-orienting streets to prioritize transit and walking. Projected to nearly double bus speeds, improve reliability, attract new riders, and improve pedestrian safety, Ashland BRT could potentially be the first world-class bus project in America, designed to a standard that would receive the […]