ChicagoTransportation & Infrastructure

Chicago's Commute Revolution, City Unveils Better Streets for Buses Plan

Chicago's Commute Revolution, City Unveils Better Streets for Buses PlanSource: Better Streets For Buses
Richard M. Sullivan
Published on November 30, 2023

The Windy City is setting its sails for smoother bus rides as the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled the city’s inaugural Better Streets for Buses Plan. This pioneering move is designed to revolutionize Chicago’s bus system, presenting a slew of enhancements aimed at expediting bus services and bolstering the overall transit experience. The strategic plan, backed by Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration, is all about boosting bus reliability and syncing infrastructure investments for a top-notch public transport system.

In a statement brimming with optimism, CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. announced, "The City of Chicago now has a framework to develop an organized program of projects—both small and large scale—that will improve the bus riding experience now and for generations to come." This fine-grained blueprint, as outlined by the transit authority's top brass, focuses on a holistic approach encompassing street design and signal systems to ensure buses stay as the crown jewel of equitable and accessible transit across Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.

Details publicized on the project's official website, indicate the BSB Plan was meticulously crafted with public input gleaned from over 1,300 city dwellers. Said plan identifies 17 corridors ripe for improvement and suggests a versatile “toolbox” of 19 street treatment options to enhance the public way—showcasing possible upgrades like swanky bus stops, bus priority traffic signals, and exclusive bus lanes.

"Better Streets for Buses lays the groundwork for making strategic investments in our streets, sidewalks, signals, and other public infrastructure to improve every step of the rider’s experience," said Acting Commissioner of CDOT Tom Carney. A competitive grant from Cook County’s Invest in Cook program is already earmarked for driving further community outreach, concept development, and meticulous design for at least three corridors spotlighted in the BSB Plan.

Meanwhile, the Active Transportation Alliance’s Executive Director, Amy Rynell, expressed ardor for the upcoming transformations, stating, "Over the last 20 years, average CTA bus speeds have slowed by 9 percent, and we know slow bus speeds make the bus less reliable and more expensive to operate.” Rynell is bullish on the vision laid out in Mayor Johnson's Transition Report, seeing it as an essential step towards a robust network of bus priority streets that can shepherd in new heights of equity and reliability for all Chicagoans.

To sustain momentum, CTA and CDOT have vowed to tap into various local, state, and federal funds to fuel ongoing and complementary projects like the Bus Priority Zones (BPZ) program. This initiative targets smaller-scale street treatments to hasten buses in high-traffic corridors, hence improving service reliability from start to finish. The Better Streets for Buses Plan has leapt forward thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, setting the stage for what could be a landmark overhaul of Chicago’s storied bus network.

ChicagoTransportation & Infrastructure