With its debut Monday of the "Jeffery Jump" route between downtown and the South Side, the CTA has taken a hop—but not a leap—toward rapid bus service.
The new J14 route along Jeffery Boulevard, which replaces the No. 14 Jeffery Express, features upgraded bus shelters and fewer stops, but the main enhancements won't arrive until next year.
By spring, the CTA expects to create a system that would give early or extended green lights to buses between 73rd and 84th streets and implement a bypass lane at Jeffery and Anthony Avenue that would allow buses to whiz through the intersection. On-board Bus Tracker displays are set to arrive next year as well.
For now, riders can enjoy a quicker commute. Going Public took the inaugural J14 ride from downtown to the 103rd Street bus garage at 5:30 a.m. Monday. There were only seven other riders on the bus, which is a standard CTA bus wrapped in blue.
The trip took 43 minutes—much faster than the 1 hour and 6 minutes it took GP to ride along the same route via the No. 14 Jeffery Express months ago as part of a project to ride every bus line from start to finish.
In fact, Monday's ride was too fast. The CTA said the new route is supposed to take about an hour from end to end and save commuters about seven minutes each way.
Other improvements include the new shelters at 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard. The shelters are wider than the current JC Decaux bus shelters and feature Bus Tracker displays.
The CTA said it considered adding heat lamps to the shelters, which provide weather protection, but decided against them because of cost concerns. A CTA official said the agency has not ruled out adding heat lamps to shelters along other rapid bus service routes in the future.
The Chicago Department of Transportation expects to begin implementing this service in the Loop in 2014. The CTA held public meetings last month about adding this service to Ashland and Western avenues.
Aisle be back
The CTA said it introduced the new, controversial rail cars with the aisle-facing seats onto the Red Line on Monday. Two trains of eight of the new cars are just a start for the Red Line. More cars will be added to replace cars more than three decades old. The new rail cars are also on the Green and Pink lines.
Free rides giveaway
Through Wednesday, Allstate insurance company is hosting a giveaway for free train rides at Metra stations in Chicago including Jefferson Park, Ogilvie and Union stations. At these stops, riders can receive a free coffee thermos and a scratch-off card for free train rides. If riders fill out a form at one of these stations and drop it off at Ogilvie, they have a chance to win free rides for a year.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Jefferson Park Blue Line
The election is over, but the Jefferson Park Blue Line on the Northwest Side is still the place to be. The station is a favorite for politicos looking to shake hands because it's a combination Metra-CTA station that sees more than 7,000 commuters daily. Besides politicos, riders also can interact with religious enthusiasts handing out pamphlets, people looking for donations and pigeons. Lately, the intermingling has been limited. The CTA has shut down one escalator to the platform for repairs until Nov. 20.