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CTA To Roll Out Dedicated Bus Lanes Along Chicago Avenue, 79th Street

One lane of travel in each direction will temporarily be converted to 24-hour bus lanes to reduce delays and crowding during the coronavirus pandemic.

A bus lane on Western Avenue near the CTA Blue Line.
Hannah Alani / Block Club Chicago
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ASHBURN — Temporary, dedicated bus lanes will soon be installed along stretches of Chicago Avenue and 79th Street on the West and Southwest sides, city officials announced Monday.

One lane of travel in each direction along the #66 Chicago and #79 79th routes will be converted to 24-hour bus lanes to help reduce delays and crowding during the coronavirus pandemic, according to leaders from the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The temporary lanes will run along three miles of 79th Street, from Cicero to Western, and along nearly five miles of Chicago Avenue from Laramie to Ashland. They’re set to be installed “in the coming weeks” and will run for at least six months.

The routes are among the city’s most-used and were chosen because the streets are wide enough to support a dedicated bus lane, according to city officials. An estimated 20,000 riders will be impacted by the plan.

An analysis from the Active Transportation Alliance last month showed public transit ridership in Black and Latino neighborhoods in the South and West sides — where most essential workers live — remains higher than in white, more affluent communities even during the pandemic.

The CTA introduced social distancing and mask requirements to protect riders on trains and buses, but many people have complained the rules aren’t enforced and riders don’t wear masks and crowd together.

“CTA buses remain critical and reliable transit resources for those —especially on our city’s South and West sides — who do not have the luxury of being able to work from home,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “This program is the first step to ensure our residents will continue to have convenient access to public transportation throughout the pandemic and after.”  

Temporary striping and signage will alert drivers to the bus-only lanes. Right turns will be permitted at all intersections. Parking, loading zones and driveways will not be affected.

“CTA bus service is a critical part of Chicago’s transportation network that has provided a lifeline for many of our most essential workers throughout the pandemic,” CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi said. “As we continue to reimagine how we use our streets, CDOT is committed to working with the CTA to prioritize bus service and making it the go-to option for safe and reliable travel around the City.”  

The dedicated bus lanes are part of an ongoing effort to improve service along the Chicago Avenue and 79th Street routes.

Both received investments in traffic signal improvement, head starts for buses at intersections and pedestrian access improvement last year through the city’s Bus Priority Zone program.

Bus-only lanes were installed along other stretches of the 79th Street route as part of the priority zone program. These areas include 79th from Columbus Drive to Kedzie Avenue, where the lanes are in effect around the clock, and at Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, where the lane is in effect during rush hours.

Parts of the Chicago Avenue routes, from Larrabee Street to Michigan Avenue and near the Chicago Blue Line station, also received dedicated bus lanes during rush hours.

Other “core routes” receiving improvements through the Bus Priority Zone program included the #2 Hyde Park Express, #6 Jackson Park Express, #49 Western and #X49 Western Express routes.

Additional routes are being considered for inclusion in future phases of the project, city officials said.

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