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After Years of Neglect, the CTA Bus System May Finally Get a Makeover

New plans proposed by the CTA will see a drastic improvement in Chicago’s bus travel system.

South Side commuters were given a first glimpse at the changes coming to the South Halsted Bus Corridor and the chance to ask questions last week at a public meeting.

Transit officials from the CTA and PACE were on hand to explain the proposal and gather feedback on the potential improvements.

The project is set to cost between $52 and $72 million, which will go towards the city modernizing bus facilities and increasing the number of passengers taking public transport.

Both the CTA and PACE unveiled changes for the corridor which aim to ease the flow of traffic and reduce travel time by up to 10 percent.

The first option proposes that parking spaces be repurposed at intersections, while the second would replace a travel lane for bus lanes between 129th and 154th Streets. The third option up for discussion would include option two, with bus lanes between 98th and 129th Street replacing on-street parking.

Pulse stations will also receive upgrades worth $500,000 each, including heated shelters, landscaping, trash receptacles, and raised platforms to allow for level boarding.

Buses in the area are set to see upgrades worth $400,000 each, including the addition of WiFi.

PACE Chief Communications Officer Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said, “Depending on the size and location, the stations could have bike racks. The community or business — if the Pulse station is on private property — will have the opportunity to add elements that would personalize the station for them. We have a couple in Niles where they have their logo etched in the glass of the back shelters so that it doesn’t impede upon the visuals.”

The travel advisory board will be asked to refine and reevaluate each upgrade option once input from the public has been reviewed. The board will also check to ensure that the project follows National Environmental Policy ACT guidelines before moving it onto the next stage.

While upgrades to stations could be seen very soon, Skogsbakken said roadway improvements may take a few years.

Speaking to Block Club Chicago, South Shore resident D’Angelo Hartley said she was ready for the change.

Said Harley, “It’s a vast improvement. A lot of commuters rely on these bus routes.

Anything that cuts travel time is a definite win.”

Back in October 2018, Curbed Chicago reported that ride-hailing trips had increased by 271 percent since 2015, while the CTA has lost 48 million riders annually over the same time frame.

As of Monday, January 6, solo rides that begin or end in the downtown area on weekdays between 6am and 10pm are being charged a surcharge of $1.75.

The new rideshare tax introduced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot aims to address the downtown congestion and encourage residents to opt into rideshare options instead.

The congestion tax is expected to generate an extra $40 million annually for the city which will be spent on transportation and closing the deficit.

Kyle Whitehead from the Active Transportation Alliance said the charge has been introduced to encourage citizens to use different modes of transport and make Chicago “a better place to live.”

A $45 billion infrastructure plan will also help to fund transport and highway changes across the state of Illinois over the next six years, including $220 million in upgrades to the PACE suburban bus service.

The plan is the state’s first-ever major public works project, and much of the budget is still yet to be allocated to specific plans.

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