CTA to Begin Faster Bus Boarding Pilot on Loop Link Downtown

September 14, 2016

Prepaid CTA bus boarding at Madison/Dearborn Loop Link bus station aims to increase speed and efficiency on seven downtown bus routes

As part of CTA’s continuing efforts to improve service for customers, the CTA announced today that it will launch a pilot that would allow customers to board buses more quickly by pre-paying their fares at the Madison and Dearborn bus station along Loop Link.

Beginning on September 19th, customers will no longer have to pay fares as they board westbound Loop Link buses during evening rush periods (3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Instead, they will be able to prepay their fares before entering the bus station on Madison at Dearborn, allowing them to board buses more quickly and therefore allowing buses to depart more efficiently, improving the quality of bus service in the Loop.

“By allowing CTA bus customers to pay fares in advance much like they do to ride the “L”, we will be able to determine how much more quickly customers are able to board buses and how bus service reliability is improved,” said CTA President Dorval Carter. “This pilot is the latest in a series of improvements we are making to CTA bus service, as part of our commitment to enhancing service and providing a world-class transit experience.”

Loop Link launched in December 2015 to make service in the downtown Loop easier, safer and more reliable. Loop Link provides a balanced separation of CTA bus, bike and regular traffic with dedicated lanes on Washington, Madison and Clinton (improvements to Canal and Randolph to complete the project are coming soon). The new configuration has helped to improve speed and service for seven CTA bus routes that travel the corridor.

CTA bus routes included in pilot

By prepaying fares during the pilot, customers at the Madison/Dearborn station will be able to board more quickly and reduce bus delays that can occur from the high volume of customers. More than 2,300 customers board buses at the Madison/Dearborn Loop Link station each day. Current boarding times during evening peak periods can take as long as 4 minutes per bus due to heavy ridership which can lead to slower service or delays along the route.

During the period in which the pilot is in effect, customers traveling west on the  #J14, #19 (used for special events only), #20, #56, #60, #124 and #157 routes will touch  their Ventra card/ticket or personal credit/debit card at a special Ventra fare reader to enter the prepaid boarding area prior to boarding the bus.

The modernized bus station at Madison and Dearborn offers a large canopy for weather protection, raised platforms for easier boarding, CTA Bus Tracker screens as well as additional seating for customers. The area will also be staffed by designated CTA employees, similar to train stations, to assist customers.

Customers who need to add transit value or unlimited ride passes to their Ventra account can easily add transit value or purchase 1-, 3-, 7- or 30-day unlimited ride passes at the Walgreens directly behind the platform; at any nearby rail station; and via the free Ventra app.

The structure of the Loop Link pilot is similar to a pilot the CTA is currently conducting on the #77 Belmont route at the bus stop at the Belmont Blue Line station, a busy rail-to-bus transfer location in Avondale. Both pilots will help provide the CTA with valuable feedback on prepaid boarding, which the CTA will look to expand pending the results of each pilot.

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