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Bus-only lanes for CTA soon

A cost-effective bus rapid transit concept design for Madison and Washington streets. This rendering depicts Washington Street. Archived on Wednesday, May 2, 2012. | Rendering provided~City of Chicago

Bus rapid transit is coming to Chicago.

Within two years, CTA bus riders will get their own lane to get through the throngs of traffic near Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

And even sooner than that, South Side riders will see rush hour bus lanes from 67th to 83rd streets on the well-used route that gets the South Shore neighborhood to and from downtown.

The city’s Department of Transportation and the CTA held a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss the plan with the public to create bus priority lanes on Madison, Washington, Canal and Clinton.

In one design, a bus lane would be added on Washington alongside a boarding platform for passengers. To the right of the bus lane would be a curbside protected bike lane. To make the bus lane work on Madison, which isn’t quite as big as Washington, bikes would have to be relocated to protected bike lanes on Randolph. The city says the design is the most cost-effective.

The most “dramatic” and expensive design would create bi-directional bus lanes on Madison. That means no vehicular traffic could get through. Protected bike lanes would instead be built on Washington and Randolph streets.

A traffic study of the most cost-effective plan found buses would save 7.5 minutes of travel time, while drivers would lose 1.5 minutes. In the more dramatic plan, buses would save 11.6 minutes of travel time, while drivers would lose 4.6 minutes.

The project also includes funding for a Union Station Transit Center, which will add sheltered platforms for at least six CTA routes. The city says the center will help relieve congestion on Canal Street by moving buses off the street.

Six routes will share the rapid bus transit lane, while buses will run every two to three minutes during peak hours near the train stations. That includes the No. 56 bus to travel to the Northwest Side, the No. 60 down to Pilsen and the No. 20 to get to the West Side.