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Download the full Better Streets for Buses Plan (pdf).

You can also read more about the following topics on this page:

  • Maps of Current Conditions and Demographics
  • Examples of Existing Bus Priority Projects in Chicago and Other Cities
  • Related Planning Initiatives

Current Conditions and Demographics

Below are several maps that help illustrate aspects of the bus riding experience and bus use across the City of Chicago, as well as maps that illustrate important demographic factors.

Bus Speed:

This map shows median weekday bus speeds as of Fall 2019. Areas in darker red have the slowest speeds

Map showing Median Bus Speeds during weekdays in Fall, 2019. Bus speeds are generally slowest downtown and along parts of the lakefront, but are also slow at many major intersections across the city.

Passenger Volume:

This map shows CTA bus ridership, measured as the average number of passengers that traveled on a corridor segment per day in Fall 2022. Areas in the darkest red indicate corridor segments with the highest volume of daily riders.

Map showing Bus Passenger Volumes for Fall 2022. Bus ridership is generally highest along parts of the lakefront and key arterials.Mode Share:

This map shows the proportion of people traveling in buses, as a percentage of the total number of people traveling in motor vehicles (cars and buses), for each street segment.

Map showing bus riders as a percentage of total bus/auto throughput in 2017. The proportion of people traveling in a bus is highest along certain key arterials, parts of North DuSable Lake Shore Drive and some east-west corridors in the Loop.

Bus Stop Conditions:

Bus stop conditions were assessed using a point system that indexes various features that contribute to overall bus stop quality, including sufficient clear space for ramp deployment, shelters, real-time bus trackers and concrete bus pads.

Map showing Bus Stop Conditions throughout the City of Chicago.

Points were assigned as follows:

  • Sufficient clear space for ramp deployment: 4 points
  • Shelter: 3 points
  • Bus Tracker (real time arrival info) display: 2 points
  • Concrete bus pad: 1 point

Other features such as benches and nearby curb ramps also contribute to overall stop quality, but were not included because complete data for all bus stops was not available.

Public Transit Commute Mode:

This map shows the distribution of bus and rail commuters throughout the City of Chicago between 2015 and 2019.

Map showing distribution of bus and rail commuters throughout the City of Chicago between 2015 and 2019. Rail commuters are visibly clustered along the Brown Line, the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line, and the North branch of the Red Line. Bus riders are distributed across the whole city, with a strong cluster along the north lake shore.

Commute mode is specific to work commute trips. If respondents indicated that they worked during the previous week, they were asked how they typically travelled to work that same week. This map only shows data for those who indicated their primary mode was public transportation. Dot locations do not correspond with specific addresses of respondents or trip origins or destinations, but are within the census tract of the respondent’s home address

Household Income:

Map showing Household Income throughout the City of Chicago. Data is from the 2015-2019 ACS 5-Year Estimates. Household incomes tend to be higher in parts of the north-side, areas of the far-north and south-west, and along parts of the lakefront.

Population by Race/Ethnicity:

Map showing the makeup of the City's population by race. Data is from the 2015-2019 ACS 5-Year Estimates. The map shows that Chicago is largely segregated by race.


Existing Bus Priority Projects in Chicago

Chicago has already implemented a number of bus priority improvements on corridors in various parts of the city. Street treatments like dedicated bus lanes, expanded boarding space, transit signal priority, and queue jumps are in place at various locations.

Map showing the location of various pieces of bus priority infrastructure throughout the City of Chicago.

Bus Priority Zones (BPZs)

The goal of the Bus Priority Zones (BPZ) program is to target pinch points along major bus routes in order 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. Bus Priority Zones were implemented in 2019 at several key locations on busy bus corridors, including along Chicago Avenue, 79th Street, and Western Avenue and several additional Bus Priority Zones have been added since. To develop designs for BPZ projects, CTA and CDOT looked at each of the slowest segments on the identified corridors to determine what changes could help reduce delays given the existing street config­uration and context. Elements of specific BPZ projects include a mix of the following, depending on the location: designated bus lanes (all day or rush hour only), signal timing optimization, queue jump signals, sidewalk reconfigurations to expand boarding areas and/or shorten crossing distances, and other streetscape improve­ments, such as street resurfacing, improved pedestrian crossings, or concrete bus pads. Learn more about Bus Priority Zones.A bus utilizes a bus lane at the Western Blue Line Station. The bus lane is painted red and is marked "CTA BUS ONLY". Above the lane, a traffic sign reads "BUS LANE, Buses only".

Loop Link

Loop Link is a downtown corridor that includes bus priority elements on portions of Washington, Madison, Clinton and Canal Streets, designed to move people efficiently through the Loop on routes connecting to neighborhoods throughout the city. The many bus routes that use these streets benefit from dedicated bus lanes and queue jump bus-only traffic signals to help keep buses separate from general traffic and on schedule. Raised boarding platforms make it easier for seniors and people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers to board buses, speeding up the boarding process for everyone. The platforms also have more seating, shelter and CTA Bus Tracker signs to improve the bus rider experi­ence. The Loop Link project also included adding dedicated space for bikes, expanded space for pedestrians, and shortened pedes­trian crossing distances at some intersections.A bus boards passengers at a Loop Link Platform.

Jeffery Jump

Jeffery Jump aims to provide fast and reliable bus service along Jeffery Boulevard. In addition to dedicated rush hour bus lanes between 67th and 83rd Streets, traffic signal priority improve­ments were implemented between 73rd and 84th Streets, and a queue jump signal was installed at Anthony Avenue. Jeffery Jump stops are visually distinguishable from other stops with blue curb­side markings, distinctive signage, and special shelters at key locations.A Jeffery Jump bus at a Jump-branded bus stop.


Bus Priority in Other Cities

Many other cities have recognized the importance of improving local bus service and have successfully installed street treatments to give bus riders greater priority:

Better Buses Restart/Better Buses Action Plan – New York City, New York

The New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are working together to improve the city's bus system by implementing bus priority improvements on routes throughout the city. One aspect of this effort, the 2020 Better Buses Restart initiative, saw the installation of 16 miles of dedicated bus lanes in one year. The overall program has the goal of improving bus speeds by 25% and aims to reverse the decline of bus ridership citywide.

Learn more about NYC DOT's Better Buses Action Plan

Learn more about the MTA's 2020 Better Buses Restart

MUNI Forward – San Francisco, California

MUNI Forward is a program launched in 2015 by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), to plan and implement a series of transit service improvements, including bus priority treatments on a network of core bus routes. SFMTA has built more than 40 miles of reliability improvements, with upgrades like red transit lanes, bus bulbs for faster boarding and traffic signals that stay green for transit. MUNI Forward corridors with bus priority treatments have seen improvements in speed and reliability, and transit riders have provided positive feedback.

Learn more about the Muni Forward program.

RapidBus – Vancouver, British Columbia

RapidBus is a new bus service offering up to 20% faster service than local buses. To ensure RapidBuses can deliver fast and reliable service and won't get stuck in traffic, TransLink worked with local governments to identify street and traffic changes that speed up bus-travel times. These changes include traffic signals, turn restrictions, introducing dedicated bus lanes and more.

Learn more about TransLink's RapidBus service.

Rose Lane Project – Portland, Oregon

Through the Rose Lane Project, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is giving buses and streetcars priority on the road, helping more Portlanders get where they need to go more reliably and quickly. The Rose Lane vision is a network of transit lines where short-term and long-term fixes improve transit service where it's delayed most. Over time, as transit moves faster and more reliably on these lines, service will increase, helping move more people.

Learn more about the PBOT Rose Lane Project.

Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor Program – Seattle, Washington

The Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor program (Transit-Plus program) improves speed and reliability along 7 high-priority transit corridors by making a variety of transit and multimodal improvements. The Seattle Transit Master Plan identified corridors to improve mobility throughout Seattle now and into the future. Each Transit-Plus project is designed for the unique needs and considerations of individual communities and contributes to further completing citywide networks of high-quality transit, bicycle and pedestrian connections.

Learn more about the Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor Program.

Transit Priority Initiative – Baltimore, Maryland

The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is working with local jurisdictions to increase bus reliability, speed and passenger safety throughout the BaltimoreLink system. MDOT MTA pursued a data-driven approach to identify opportunities in the system focusing on reliability, bus speeds and travel delays at bus stops. Potential targeted investments to the roadway that prioritize transit riders include curb-extensions at bus stops, transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes, queue jumps and more.

Learn more about the MDOT MTA Transit Priority Initiative.

Download the full Better Streets for Buses Plan (pdf).

You can also read more about the following topics on this page:

  • Maps of Current Conditions and Demographics
  • Examples of Existing Bus Priority Projects in Chicago and Other Cities
  • Related Planning Initiatives

Current Conditions and Demographics

Below are several maps that help illustrate aspects of the bus riding experience and bus use across the City of Chicago, as well as maps that illustrate important demographic factors.

Bus Speed:

This map shows median weekday bus speeds as of Fall 2019. Areas in darker red have the slowest speeds

Map showing Median Bus Speeds during weekdays in Fall, 2019. Bus speeds are generally slowest downtown and along parts of the lakefront, but are also slow at many major intersections across the city.

Passenger Volume:

This map shows CTA bus ridership, measured as the average number of passengers that traveled on a corridor segment per day in Fall 2022. Areas in the darkest red indicate corridor segments with the highest volume of daily riders.

Map showing Bus Passenger Volumes for Fall 2022. Bus ridership is generally highest along parts of the lakefront and key arterials.Mode Share:

This map shows the proportion of people traveling in buses, as a percentage of the total number of people traveling in motor vehicles (cars and buses), for each street segment.

Map showing bus riders as a percentage of total bus/auto throughput in 2017. The proportion of people traveling in a bus is highest along certain key arterials, parts of North DuSable Lake Shore Drive and some east-west corridors in the Loop.

Bus Stop Conditions:

Bus stop conditions were assessed using a point system that indexes various features that contribute to overall bus stop quality, including sufficient clear space for ramp deployment, shelters, real-time bus trackers and concrete bus pads.

Map showing Bus Stop Conditions throughout the City of Chicago.

Points were assigned as follows:

  • Sufficient clear space for ramp deployment: 4 points
  • Shelter: 3 points
  • Bus Tracker (real time arrival info) display: 2 points
  • Concrete bus pad: 1 point

Other features such as benches and nearby curb ramps also contribute to overall stop quality, but were not included because complete data for all bus stops was not available.

Public Transit Commute Mode:

This map shows the distribution of bus and rail commuters throughout the City of Chicago between 2015 and 2019.

Map showing distribution of bus and rail commuters throughout the City of Chicago between 2015 and 2019. Rail commuters are visibly clustered along the Brown Line, the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line, and the North branch of the Red Line. Bus riders are distributed across the whole city, with a strong cluster along the north lake shore.

Commute mode is specific to work commute trips. If respondents indicated that they worked during the previous week, they were asked how they typically travelled to work that same week. This map only shows data for those who indicated their primary mode was public transportation. Dot locations do not correspond with specific addresses of respondents or trip origins or destinations, but are within the census tract of the respondent’s home address

Household Income:

Map showing Household Income throughout the City of Chicago. Data is from the 2015-2019 ACS 5-Year Estimates. Household incomes tend to be higher in parts of the north-side, areas of the far-north and south-west, and along parts of the lakefront.

Population by Race/Ethnicity:

Map showing the makeup of the City's population by race. Data is from the 2015-2019 ACS 5-Year Estimates. The map shows that Chicago is largely segregated by race.


Existing Bus Priority Projects in Chicago

Chicago has already implemented a number of bus priority improvements on corridors in various parts of the city. Street treatments like dedicated bus lanes, expanded boarding space, transit signal priority, and queue jumps are in place at various locations.

Map showing the location of various pieces of bus priority infrastructure throughout the City of Chicago.

Bus Priority Zones (BPZs)

The goal of the Bus Priority Zones (BPZ) program is to target pinch points along major bus routes in order 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. Bus Priority Zones were implemented in 2019 at several key locations on busy bus corridors, including along Chicago Avenue, 79th Street, and Western Avenue and several additional Bus Priority Zones have been added since. To develop designs for BPZ projects, CTA and CDOT looked at each of the slowest segments on the identified corridors to determine what changes could help reduce delays given the existing street config­uration and context. Elements of specific BPZ projects include a mix of the following, depending on the location: designated bus lanes (all day or rush hour only), signal timing optimization, queue jump signals, sidewalk reconfigurations to expand boarding areas and/or shorten crossing distances, and other streetscape improve­ments, such as street resurfacing, improved pedestrian crossings, or concrete bus pads. Learn more about Bus Priority Zones.A bus utilizes a bus lane at the Western Blue Line Station. The bus lane is painted red and is marked "CTA BUS ONLY". Above the lane, a traffic sign reads "BUS LANE, Buses only".

Loop Link

Loop Link is a downtown corridor that includes bus priority elements on portions of Washington, Madison, Clinton and Canal Streets, designed to move people efficiently through the Loop on routes connecting to neighborhoods throughout the city. The many bus routes that use these streets benefit from dedicated bus lanes and queue jump bus-only traffic signals to help keep buses separate from general traffic and on schedule. Raised boarding platforms make it easier for seniors and people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers to board buses, speeding up the boarding process for everyone. The platforms also have more seating, shelter and CTA Bus Tracker signs to improve the bus rider experi­ence. The Loop Link project also included adding dedicated space for bikes, expanded space for pedestrians, and shortened pedes­trian crossing distances at some intersections.A bus boards passengers at a Loop Link Platform.

Jeffery Jump

Jeffery Jump aims to provide fast and reliable bus service along Jeffery Boulevard. In addition to dedicated rush hour bus lanes between 67th and 83rd Streets, traffic signal priority improve­ments were implemented between 73rd and 84th Streets, and a queue jump signal was installed at Anthony Avenue. Jeffery Jump stops are visually distinguishable from other stops with blue curb­side markings, distinctive signage, and special shelters at key locations.A Jeffery Jump bus at a Jump-branded bus stop.


Bus Priority in Other Cities

Many other cities have recognized the importance of improving local bus service and have successfully installed street treatments to give bus riders greater priority:

Better Buses Restart/Better Buses Action Plan – New York City, New York

The New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) are working together to improve the city's bus system by implementing bus priority improvements on routes throughout the city. One aspect of this effort, the 2020 Better Buses Restart initiative, saw the installation of 16 miles of dedicated bus lanes in one year. The overall program has the goal of improving bus speeds by 25% and aims to reverse the decline of bus ridership citywide.

Learn more about NYC DOT's Better Buses Action Plan

Learn more about the MTA's 2020 Better Buses Restart

MUNI Forward – San Francisco, California

MUNI Forward is a program launched in 2015 by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), to plan and implement a series of transit service improvements, including bus priority treatments on a network of core bus routes. SFMTA has built more than 40 miles of reliability improvements, with upgrades like red transit lanes, bus bulbs for faster boarding and traffic signals that stay green for transit. MUNI Forward corridors with bus priority treatments have seen improvements in speed and reliability, and transit riders have provided positive feedback.

Learn more about the Muni Forward program.

RapidBus – Vancouver, British Columbia

RapidBus is a new bus service offering up to 20% faster service than local buses. To ensure RapidBuses can deliver fast and reliable service and won't get stuck in traffic, TransLink worked with local governments to identify street and traffic changes that speed up bus-travel times. These changes include traffic signals, turn restrictions, introducing dedicated bus lanes and more.

Learn more about TransLink's RapidBus service.

Rose Lane Project – Portland, Oregon

Through the Rose Lane Project, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is giving buses and streetcars priority on the road, helping more Portlanders get where they need to go more reliably and quickly. The Rose Lane vision is a network of transit lines where short-term and long-term fixes improve transit service where it's delayed most. Over time, as transit moves faster and more reliably on these lines, service will increase, helping move more people.

Learn more about the PBOT Rose Lane Project.

Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor Program – Seattle, Washington

The Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor program (Transit-Plus program) improves speed and reliability along 7 high-priority transit corridors by making a variety of transit and multimodal improvements. The Seattle Transit Master Plan identified corridors to improve mobility throughout Seattle now and into the future. Each Transit-Plus project is designed for the unique needs and considerations of individual communities and contributes to further completing citywide networks of high-quality transit, bicycle and pedestrian connections.

Learn more about the Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor Program.

Transit Priority Initiative – Baltimore, Maryland

The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is working with local jurisdictions to increase bus reliability, speed and passenger safety throughout the BaltimoreLink system. MDOT MTA pursued a data-driven approach to identify opportunities in the system focusing on reliability, bus speeds and travel delays at bus stops. Potential targeted investments to the roadway that prioritize transit riders include curb-extensions at bus stops, transit signal priority, dedicated bus lanes, queue jumps and more.

Learn more about the MDOT MTA Transit Priority Initiative.

Page last updated: 30 Nov 2023, 10:10 AM