South DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Cottage Grove, 79th Street among proposed streets for bus improvements

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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 offers a network of streets to get bus-friendly upgrades. 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 Cottage Grove Route #4.
  • Jeffery Boulevard, which carries routes J14 Jeffery Jump and No. 15 Jeffery Local.
  • King Drive.
  • South DuSable Lake Shore Drive, which offers express and local routes including the #2 Hyde Park Express, #6 Jackson Park Express, #26 South Shore Express and #28 Stony Island.

For a map of the proposed corridors, click here.

Possible improvements on these routes:

  • Bus stops, including nearby sidewalks and crosswalks added or improved; overhead shelters, seats, lighting and bus tracking signs; and bicycle parking.
  • Streets, including bus lanes; raised “boarding islands” with vehicle lanes on one side and cycle lanes on the other; and place bus stops on the other side of intersections.
  • Intersections, including conversions from stop signs to traffic lights; synchronized traffic lights; and “queue jumps” which give buses an early green light so they can get ahead of waiting traffic.

For more information on the proposed enhancements, click here.

Better streets for buses wouldn’t state that “X Street is going to have a dedicated bus lane, Y Street is going to have signal priority, and Z Street is going to have special bus stop shelters,” said CTA Planner Jennifer Henry at 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 CTA’s “first major bus priority project” in 2012, Henry said. Parts of the route include a rush-hour bus lane, enhanced bus stops, and transit signal priority, where an approaching bus may briefly extend a green light or otherwise alter the timing of the transit. ‘a signal.

CTA launched its public consultation process around Better Streets for Buses in mid-April, and public comments close on May 31.

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

South Lakefront Transit users have already posted suggestions:

  • Create a dedicated bus 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 line along Cottage Grove Avenue, similar to the X9 Ashland Express and X49 Western Express lines.
  • Create a bus rapid transit system or dedicated bus lane along Garfield Boulevard and 55th Street.

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

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

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A No. 3 King Drive CTA bus passes cars queuing for free gasoline 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 lagging; 59th St Staton upgrades to start next tear

A Metra official also provided an update on the agency’s South Side plans on Tuesday.

According to a May 3 report, the Fair Transit South Cook pilot program helped recover ridership on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines faster than the entire system. Both lines serve the South Side, Southern Cook County and Northern Will County. .

However, the Fair Transit pilot did not attract many new passengers, according to the Daily Line.

Ridership on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines in December 2021 remained about 70% lower than in 2019, according to the county report. Ridership on both lines was about 90% below 2019 levels when the pilot launched.

The Fair Transit Pilot was launched in January 2021 and will run through the end of 2023. Fares on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines have been reduced by approximately 50% through the program, the cost of monthly passes have been reduced by approximately 40%. .

Echoing County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle’s comments earlier this month, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said the agency would make it a priority to involve CTA in the combination of agency tariff systems.

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

In another ongoing effort, the 59th Street Metra station will be rehabilitated with new platform elevators, platform canopies, digital train tracking signs, overpass repairs and new lighting, benches and signs, said Gillis.

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

The current layout of the station is not accessible to people with disabilities. The nearest accessible stop is 55th-56th-57th Street.

The 59th Street station design is expected to be completed in 2023. Construction would begin the same year and “it would likely take a few years to complete,” 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, offers only stairs to commuters.

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