Chicago launches program to prioritize bus service on popular routes

Posted on April 23, 2019

Improvements made under the Bus Priority Zone program may include street resurfacing work and establishing designated bus-only lanes.
Improvements made under the Bus Priority Zone program may include street resurfacing work and establishing designated bus-only lanes.Daniel SchwenCC BY-SA 4.0

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans for the first of a series of projects to be completed in 2019 that will prioritize Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus service, enhance pedestrian safety, and improve the flow of traffic along some of the City’s most heavily traveled corridors.

Recognizing the vital role of bus service to Chicago’s robust transportation network and its value to the local economy, Mayor Emanuel allocated $5 million toward unsnarling bus slow zones at bottlenecks and pinch points to improve service along entire bus routes. The new initiative, the Bus Priority Zones program, complements the Mayor’s commitment to extend the city’s transit oriented-development policy to high-capacity bus corridors, and is one of the first projects to be implemented based on recommendations made by the Mayor’s New Transportation and Mobility Task Force in March.

Improvements made under the Bus Priority Zone program may include street resurfacing work and establishing designated bus-only lanes along certain stretches of the corridor to improve bus service during weekday rush periods or all-day, depending on the specific location. The designated lanes will be indicated with new pavement marking and signage.

Other program elements include queue jump signals to give buses a head start to get in front of regular traffic and optimizing the location of bus stops, as well as improvements that support pedestrian safety and overall traffic flow for all vehicles.

The first project to be started under the Bus Priority Zone program will be at the intersection of Chicago/Milwaukee/Ogden — one of the busiest bus boarding locations in Chicago during rush periods, on one of the highest ridership and highest frequency bus routes in the CTA system. The eight-week project will begin immediately and include street resurfacing, new signage, and the reconfiguration of May Street into a cul-de-sac, which will improve the safety and flow of traffic at the intersection and also provide an extended and safer bus boarding area for riders.

The #79 79th Street bus route, with 7.8 million rides in 2017, and #66 Chicago Avenue bus route, with 6.9 million rides, were selected for the initial improvements based on CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation studies that looked at a host of factors, including service coverage, ridership, operations, population/employment, and feasibility.

In addition to the Bus Priority Zone work on 79th and Chicago Avenue, additional targeted investments have been identified for other high-volume locations, such as Western Avenue and downtown intersections that serve multiple bus routes, as part of the Mayor’s proposal to extend transit oriented-development for buses. Transit signal priority on Western Avenue is also planned to be completed by the end of 2019.

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