Chicago-area motorists should get ready to move out of the way for more CTA buses after the city broke ground on the first of several new bus priority zones, focusing on the city’s busiest transportation routes.
At a ceremony on Friday morning, city officials praised the new lanes as a great way to expedite commute for bus riders, but some critics say that the designated bus lanes will only lead to more congestion and safety issues.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place at Chicago and North May Street, one of at least five locations where the city will be placing the lanes that will be designated for bus traffic only.
The new lanes will cost an estimated $5 million, and city officials praised them as a useful tool to helping commuters.
“For Chicago to be a more vibrant, sustainable, and equitable city, we need to move people more efficiently. Bus lanes are a good way to do that,” Ron Burke, the Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said.
Bus routes on Chicago Avenue, Western Avenue, and LaSalle Street, among others, will soon see the restricted lanes, which are designed to increase ridership and to speed up commuting times.
The city has already experimented with the concept using CTA Loop Link stops, and some Chicagoans say that they have seen problems with the way the stops are laid out.
“They obviously take up more space and there’s less lanes for traffic,” one resident said.
The city’s enforcement of the exclusive lanes has also been called into question. An NBC 5 Investigates investigation found numerous instances of rideshare and other vehicles blocking buses in the lanes, and according to the 2017 investigation, there was “no record of any citation ever written for” the lawbreakers.
On Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the city intends to step up enforcement in the limited lanes.
“That’s happening,” Emanuel said. “Especially during the hours that are critical (to the program).”
The Active Transportation Alliance says that incoming Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot supports expanding the program, and their goal is to add 50 miles of designated bus lanes over the next four years.
“Motorists tend to observe the restrictions over time, and they become used to it,” Burke said. “We think that will happen in Chicago as well.”