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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

South DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Cottage Grove, 79th Street Among Streets Proposed For Bus Improvements

The Better Streets for Buses plan proposes a network of corridors across the city — including 10 along the lakefront from Kenwood to South Shore — to renovate with bus-friendly improvements.

The No. 79 79th Street bus route is an essential mode of transportation for several South Side neighborhoods.
Lee Edwards/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — Express bus routes along the south lakefront and other major South Side bus corridors could be in line for upgrades under a new Chicago Transit Authority plan.

Better Streets for Buses proposes a network of streets to get bus-friendly improvements. It also includes a “toolbox” of improvements, which would be implemented as needed along major thoroughfares.

Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore streets included in the proposed network:

  • 47th, 55th, 63rd, 67th/69th/71st, 75th and 79th streets.
  • Cottage Grove/Michigan avenues, which carries the No. 4 Cottage Grove route.
  • Jeffery Boulevard, which carries the J14 Jeffery Jump and No. 15 Jeffery Local routes.
  • King Drive.
  • South DuSable Lake Shore Drive, which carries express and local routes, including the No. 2 Hyde Park Express, No. 6 Jackson Park Express, No. 26 South Shore Express and No. 28 Stony Island.

For a map of proposed corridors, click here.

Possible improvements on those roads:

  • Bus stops, including added or improved nearby sidewalks and crosswalks; overhead shelter, seating, lighting and bus tracking signs; and bicycle parking.
  • Streets, including bus-only lanes; raised “boarding islands,” with vehicle lanes on one side and bike lane(s) on the other; and placing bus stops at the far side of intersections.
  • Intersections, including conversions of stop signs to traffic signals; synchronized traffic signals; and “queue jumps” that give buses an early green light so they can move ahead of waiting traffic.

For more information on the proposed improvements, click here.

Better Streets for Buses would not outline that “Street X is going to get a bus lane, Street Y is going to get signal prioritization and Street Z is going to get special bus stop shelters,” CTA planner Jennifer Henry said at a Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference discussion Tuesday.

Rather, the plan will guide future decisions, with detailed improvements for specific corridors to be decided later, Henry said.

The J14 Jeffery Jump route was the CTA’s “first big bus priority project” in 2012, Henry said. Portions of the route include a peak-hour bus lane, enhanced bus stops and transit signal priority, in which an approaching bus can briefly extend a green light or otherwise modify a signal’s timing.

The CTA launched its public input process around Better Streets for Buses in mid-April, and public comment ends May 31.

An interactive map allows transit riders to show support for including a street in the network, ask the agency to prioritize certain areas for improvements, suggest other places to add to the proposed network and suggest a corridor’s removal from the proposed network.

South lakefront transit users have already posted suggestions:

  • Create a bus-only lane and increase bus service along Stony Island Avenue near the future Obama Presidential Center.
  • Add 71st Street to the proposed network.
  • Create an express bus route along Cottage Grove Avenue, similar to the X9 Ashland Express and X49 Western Express routes.
  • Create a bus rapid transit system or bus-only lane along Garfield Boulevard and 55th Street.

Several attendees at Tuesday’s discussion and commenters on the interactive map shared frustrations with the No. 6 Jackson Park Express route. “Ghost buses” that appear on bus trackers but never show up were among the most common complaints for the route, alongside long wait times and delays.

Transit riders can submit feedback by registering for an account through the Better Streets for Buses website. The agency will compile responses, follow up with more public input opportunities and present a final plan by the end of year, Henry said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A #3 King Drive CTA bus passes cars queued up for free gas from Dr. Willie Wilson at the BP gas station at 35th Street and King Drive in Bronzeville on March 24, 2022.

South Side Metra Ridership Still Lags; 59th Street Staton Upgrades To Start Next Tear

A Metra official also gave updates on the agency’s South Side projects Tuesday.

The Fair Transit South Cook pilot program has helped ridership recover on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines faster than the system as a whole, according to a report released May 3. The two lines serve the South Side, southern Cook County and northern Will County.

However, the Fair Transit pilot didn’t attract many new riders, according to the Daily Line.

Metra Electric and Rock Island line ridership in December 2021 remained about 70 percent lower than in 2019, according to the county’s report. Ridership on the two lines was about 90 percent lower than 2019 levels when the pilot launched.

The fair transit pilot launched in January 2021 and will run through the end of 2023. Fares on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines have been cut by about 50 percent through the program, with the cost of monthly passes have been reduced by about 40 percent.

Echoing county board President Toni Preckwinkle’s comments earlier this month, Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis said the agency will make it a priority to get the CTA on board with combining the agencies’ fare systems.

Credit: Cook County
A map of the Fair Transit South Cook pilot program’s coverage area.

In another ongoing effort, the 59th Street Metra station will be rehabbed with new elevators to the platforms, canopies for the platforms, digital train-tracking signs, viaduct repairs and new lighting, benches and signs, Gillis said.

The 60th Street entrance to the station, which was closed before Metra took over the old Illinois Central railroad in 1987, will also reopen when the renovation is complete.

The station’s current layout is not accessible for those with disabilities. The nearest accessible stop is 55th-56th-57th Street.

The 59th Street station’s design is expected to be completed in 2023. Construction would start that same year, and “it would probably take a couple years to finish,” Gillis said.

The plans were announced in 2019, eight years after the University of Chicago agreed to commit $2.5 million to the project pending public funding.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
The current entrance to the 59th Street station, seen here in August 2019, only offers stairs to commuters.

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