An experimental plan to operate express bus routes on Garfield Boulevard and Irving Park Road was approved by the Chicago Transit Board at its monthly meeting Wednesday. X55 Garfield Express and X80 Irving Park Express buses will operate weekdays, supplementing local service, and speeding trips between residential communities and job locations which both routes will serve. The experimental service will begin June 23rd.
The express bus routes will provide fast service along two major east-west traffic corridors where there are no parallel 'L' lines. The new service will allow customers to reach their destinations quickly and directly, with travel times expected to improve by 10 to 15 percent in each corridor.
X55 Garfield Express buses will follow the routing of the CTA's #55 Garfield local buses along 55th and Garfield, but will make only 14 stops, mainly at streets with crossing bus or 'L' lines, between the Museum of Science & Industry and the Midway Orange Line station. The regular #55 makes 75 stops. The X55 buses will save between 5 and 7 minutes per trip over the regular #55 route.
X80 Irving Park Express buses will follow a major portion of the #80 Irving Park local bus route between Cicero and Lake Shore Drive. X80 buses will make 18 stops along Irving Park from Cicero to Lake Shore, and also along Lake Shore and Sheridan from Irving Park to Diversey, compared to 65 stops made by the normal #80. The X80 route will save customers between 4 and 9 minutes over the #80 route.
?We are continually looking for creative ways to better serve our customers and we have had success with the X49 Western Express," said CTA Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. ?We hope the experimental routes we?ve introduced today will speed travel and ease congestion."
?Establishing express service on these two routes is part of our strategy to attract more riders by providing options to speed their trips," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?The potential for growth is already apparent. Weekday ridership on Garfield Boulevard increased by 2.7 percent in 2001 over 2000. Faster service will build on these gains."
X55 Garfield Express buses will operate every 15 minutes on weekdays from 5:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. and again from 1 p.m. until 7 p.m. X80 Irving Park Express buses will run every 15 minutes from 4:45 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. until 7:45 p.m.
Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds from the Federal Transit Administration will pay for the six-month experimental operation of both express routes. Cost for the X55 Garfield Express will be $410,000 during the experimental period and the X80 Irving Park Express is expected to cost $408,000.
The proposal for these two express routes follows the successful launch of express service on Western Avenue in late 1998. The X49 Western Express operates weekdays from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and makes 31 stops rather than the normal 150 between Berwyn and 95th Street. Since the X49 route was established, ridership on the entire Western Avenue corridor has increased 18.9%.
These improvements are an example of an ongoing effort by the CTA to regularly evaluate routes and service levels and make adjustments as needed. Since 1998, nine new bus routes have been established. Four routes were extended to make it easier for workers to reach their jobs. Hours or frequency of service have been extended for 70 routes.
The CTA is also making its mainline bus service more convenient for customers with disabilities. Presently, 80% of routes and 92% of buses are accessible. On the rail side, 44% (or 64 out of 144) stations are accessible to customers with disabilities. Upgrades have been made at 25 rail stations, making them more attractive and convenient to use and a new station opened last summer on the Green Line near the Garfield Park Conservatory. Additionally, 13 downtown 'L' stations that were open part-time are now open at all hours trains are in operation.
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