Starting this week, commuting around Chicago just got easier with the launch of the Loop Link, a major modernization of the downtown transportation network that will make it easier, safer and more reliable for commuters to travel to and through the downtown area.
Loop Link will provide a balanced separation of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus, bike and regular traffic with dedicated lanes on Washington, Madison, Clinton and Canal. The new configuration will improve reliability and speed for six CTA bus routes that travel the corridor and extend benefits to neighborhoods throughout the city where these routes originate.
CDOT, the CTA and Loop Link stakeholders created an outreach and education campaign this week ahead of the launch to familiarize transit riders, bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians with the features of Loop Link.
“Loop Link will provide quicker and more reliable bus service to CTA customers,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This project will improve their transit experience and may attract new customers who want an affordable, convenient way to get downtown and across the Loop.”
Improvements for bus customers
Loop Link features a number of improvements for CTA bus customers, including red bus-only lanes, enhanced signage clearly delineating the CTA bus lanes and early traffic signals for buses at key intersections, all of which improve bus speeds and service efficiency and eliminate bottlenecks at congested portions of the Loop.
The project also provides distinctive, more comfortable bus stations with large canopies for improved weather protection, raised platforms for easier boarding, CTA Bus Tracker screens and more seating for customers.
Buses using Loop Link provide critical connections to multiple Chicago neighborhoods, Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, CTA subways and Navy Pier. More than 1,000 CTA bus trips will traverse the Loop Link corridor each day.
Improving service reliability downtown is expected to have a positive ripple effect on the portions of these routes outside downtown, benefiting neighborhoods throughout the city.
Benefits for bicycle commuters
Loop Link features protected bike lanes on Washington and Clinton for easier, safer bicycle commutes, including an eastbound bike lane against the southern curb on Washington that is protected from auto and bus traffic. A two-way bike lane has been installed on Clinton, similar to what currently exists on Dearborn Street. A westbound protected bike lane will be installed on Randolph in 2016. City officials advise bicyclists to pay close attention to the bicycle signals, pavement markings and new safety signage on the new green bike lanes. Bicyclists are required to yield to pedestrians who are crossing the bike lane.
Improved environment for pedestrians
Loop Link provides a more comfortable walking environment for pedestrians. Removing bus stations from sidewalks provides people with more room to walk, and 19 crosswalks have been shortened to make it safer and easier to cross streets. City officials urge pedestrians to avoid walking or standing in the green bike lanes and to obey signals when crossing at intersections for their own safety and to respect the dedicated turn signals for cars.