Relying on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has never been easy—reroutes, construction zones and tracking issues make traveling on public transportation overcrowded. Loop Link, a new bus rapid transit program, the program hopes to make commuting around the city faster and more efficient. According to the CTA, Loop Link is “a modern, more reliable transportation to the Loop,” Loop Link allows congested areas, like areas on the West Loop, to have traffic flow more smoothly by utilizing bus only lanes.
Loop Link is intended to eliminate maneuvering of buses and cars downtown to avoid traffic. “Congestion is increasing (which) affects our ability to operate our buses on those streets,” CTA Vice President of Scheduling and Planning Mike Connelly said.
With Loop Link, bus trips will be expedited while also allowing cars and bikes to move freely through Washington Blvd., Madison St., Clinton St. and Canal St. The thousands of Chicagoans traveling by bus and bike will be able to get to their destination with less hassle.
Currently, buses travel at a slow speed due to traffic.
“Because of the traffic (jams) some buses go as slow as three miles an hour. That’s slower than walking speed,” Commissioner CDOT Rebekah Scheinfeld said.
The idea with Loop Link is to provide buses their own designated lanes, while also giving cars two lanes. This will allow each system of transportation to move more freely without having to be backed up behind each other due to CTA stops or civilian pickups. For bikers traveling within potential traffic, Loop Link has also assigned a protected lane on Randolph St., Washington Blvd., and Lincoln Ave.
In addition to Loop Link, express buses to Ashland and Western avenues will be returning and running from 5- 9 a.m. and again from 3-6 p.m., the #X9 Ashland and the #X49 Western will make stops during the weekdays. The CTA had originally removed the convenient express routes due to budget cuts in 2010.
A Professor in the School for Public Service, Department of Public Policy, and Sustainable Urban Development program, Joseph P. Schwieterman, supports the new changes with Loop Link and the return of the express buses. “It’s important for Chicago to take baby steps. [It’s] building momentum for better bus services,” Schwieterman said. Schwieterman also said that Chicago has had a history of underperforming express bus services.
While the almost yearlong construction for the new system has been meddlesome for Chicagoans, it’s a great opportunity in the long run. “The Loop Link has been unfairly criticized for not being on the cutting edge for bus rapid transits…but it’s a very practical project,” Schwieterman said. “[There] have been problems with traveling in the Loop for generations but…Loop Link helps solve that. It’s going to be a big help.”