CDOT and CTA Announce Improved Dedicated Bus-Only Lanes Along Chicago Avenue

December 9, 2022

Updated bus-only lanes are one of several projects aimed at improving transit operations throughout the City

Today, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), along with 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata, announced the completion of work to further improve and make permanent the Chicago Avenue “Pop-up Essential” bus only lanes introduced by Mayor Lightfoot in 2020. Initially implemented to help prioritize bus services for essential workers and other transit riders during the pandemic, the conversion of these traffic lanes to 24-hour dedicated bus lanes has proven beneficial and are now permanent.CTA President Carter with 1st Ward Alderman La Spata and CDOT Commissioner Biagi touring recent transportation improvements along Chicago Avenue

“The completion of this full-time, dedicated bus lane on Chicago Avenue is part of our citywide commitment to ensure all of our residents can get around our city safely and efficiently,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Investing in a robust and reliable public transportation system improves the transit experience and quality of life for all residents, and we are proud to be able to continue enhancing this important resource.”

Work performed along the mile-long, bus-only lanes featured along Chicago Avenue between Western and Ashland avenues, will support faster, more reliable bus service along one of Chicago’s busiest corridors. This project work also complements ongoing collaborative efforts between CDOT and CTA to improve the transit experience through similar investments, including other Bus Priority Zone (BPZ) projects in progress.

CTA eBus traveling a dedicated bus only lane along Chicago Avenue

“This upgrade to Chicago Avenue is good news for residents of the 1st Ward and everyone who relies on #66 bus,” said 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata. “Keeping our buses moving efficiently is one of my top priorities. I know a lot of 1st Ward residents rely on the Chicago bus, and I was pleased that they developed this proposal through our participatory budgeting process.”  

The outer travel lanes of eastbound and westbound Chicago Avenue feature a designated bus-only lane now marked with red paint and text and will remain in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By providing a designated space for buses, the new lanes will help buses avoid getting stuck in traffic congestion and help keep other vehicles clear of areas where buses need priority, like bus stops. This helps buses travel faster and stay on schedule, and allows for easier boarding – making riding the bus a more reliable and attractive travel option. 

“The temporary, pop-up essential bus lanes were a useful tool we implemented during the pandemic that have since proven to be vital in ensuring that buses traveling the #66 bus can pass through what has long been a bottle-neck and major source of delays along the route,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “By making these temporary measures permanent, we are cutting several minutes off the typical commute for those traveling through the corridor, and further improving service reliability across the entire route.”

The improved bus only lanes are part of a variety of transit investments, including bus lanes and bus stop improvements throughout the City and complement ongoing BPZ projects currently under construction or in design. The BPZ program is a partnership between CTA and CDOT that targets pinch points along major bus routes to speed up “bus slow zones,” which are often caused by traffic congestion, insufficient space for bus boarding, or a major intersection that creates a bottleneck.  

“CDOT and CTA are working closely together to improve the entire transit experience – from installing infrastructure that improves bus efficiency to creating more walkable streets that make getting to and from bus stops safer and more comfortable,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “This full-time bus lane on Chicago Avenue, combined with ongoing pedestrian safety investments, will create a more transit and people-friendly street. Thanks to the support of Mayor Lightfoot, we look forward to bringing these investments to more corridors throughout Chicago.” 

Other BPZ projects to be implemented include: 

  • Western Avenue between Logan Boulevard and George Street: Curbside dedicated bus lane during peak hours
  • 79th Street /Columbus/Kedzie: Bus lanes, queue jump signal, bus stop improvements, cul-de-sac and intersection safety improvements

Additional improvements are planned for this stretch of Chicago Avenue to calm vehicle traffic and improve pedestrian safety. In the coming weeks, CDOT will  install curb bump-outs and left-turn traffic calming at various intersections. The new traffic calming infrastructure will encourage drivers to take turns at safer speeds and improve drivers’ visibility of people crossing the street. 

CDOT and CTA are making investments citywide to make the transit experience more accessible, safe, and efficient throughout every step of the customer journey. Other recent projects include:

87th Street Bus Stop and Safety Improvements  

CDOT’s Vision Zero Action Plan identified the 1.5 mile segment of the 87th Street corridor from Damen to Halsted as a high crash corridor, making this corridor a top priority for safety improvements. CDOT and CTA saw the potential to incorporate bus improvements as part of this project, and developed designs that include nine bus boarding bulbs along the corridor. These create more space at bus stop waiting areas and make it easier for the bus to access the stop. These bus bulbs also serve as pedestrian bump outs at intersections, shortening the crossing distance for all pedestrians and making the walk to each of these bus stops safer and more comfortable. The project also includes 15 pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions at 18 intersections

Milwaukee Avenue Bus and Bike Improvement  

To help provide people walking, biking, and using transit with a safe and comfortable experience, CDOT recently installed protected bike lanes and eight in-lane bus stops with boarding islands on Milwaukee Avenue between Carpenter and Division. The new infrastructure will help improve transit efficiency, shorten pedestrian crossing distances, and provide physical separation for people biking, including through bus stops. 

Better Streets for Buses

In Spring of 2022, public outreach was conducted to guide the Better Streets for Buses plan – a comprehensive, citywide plan for bus priority streets in Chicago. More than 1,200 individuals from across the city were engaged as part of outreach, garnering thousands of comments on where bus priority street treatments should be implemented and what types of improvements riders want to see. CTA and CDOT will utilize feedback and conduct additional analysis to develop a final version of the plan, which is anticipated to be complete in early 2023. The final plan will identify targeted corridors where bus enhancements/street treatments are most appropriate based on public feedback, ridership, bus speeds, equitable geographic coverage, and other relevant factors.


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