Sunday, March 06, 2016

I Ride the Loop Link for the First Time

(This is the second in a series of Loop Link posts. Previous Next)

This last Wednesday (March 2) I rode the Loop Link for the first time. This post will just recount my experience without comment. In my next post I will explain why I already consider the Loop Link a huge success.

Streetsblog/Chicago had a meetup at Jak's Tavern at 901 W Jackson at 5:30pm. Wednesday is a night out on the town for me when I go speak French with my French speaking buddies at Portillos on 100 W Ontario at 7:30pm. So it was a natural for me to go a couple hours earlier and get off the Red Line at Monroe at 5:15pm and schooch over to the Loop Link station on the north side of Madison just west of State.

It really is a station and not just a bus stop with a fancy bus shelter. A small ramp takes one up a bit and there are benches to sit on, a broad canopy overhead, platform treatment warning of the edge and special signage showing where the buses go. It had the feel of an el station.

Checking the sign I could see that I had a choice of three possible buses to get to Union Station at Jackson. There were a couple of other possible buses that went off in other directions. The first bus was not one of mine but the second one was.

A queue of about eight of us boarded the bus. A couple people had minor issues with their Ventra cards. One person had a major issue. My card worked fine, even if a bit slower than el station readers. The bus left the station with the driver continuing to work with the person having the Ventra problem.

I found a perfect observation position. There was an extremely overweight man sitting in most of  the forward facing double wide disability seat.  In the rest of the seat were personal belongings. I stood in the space in front of the personal items and mostly out of the isle directly under the overhead hand rail. I had a clear view out the front windshield of the bus.

The bus ahead was at least four blocks ahead. There was a cab in the red lane and after it pulled away a car entered the red lane. Both were discharging passengers and both seemed anxious to get out of the way before the bus came. They succeeded. In the ride to Union Station there was never a time when the bus was delayed by a car in front of it. The closest to that happening was where cars were spilling out of a parking garage. But they too exhibited nervous behavior about blocking our bus. Some pulled in front of the bus to cross over the red lane with the light change but all of us made the light and they cleared the red lane.

At the next station I remembered that I had forgotten to notice if we were creeping into the stations because of the infamous mirror concerns.  I had not noticed such behavior when the bus had arrived. At the third station the bus did seem to creep into the station but really it could have been a typical slow bus stop approach.

While riding I engaged a rider about his experience with the Loop Link. "Was all this stuff worth it," I asked. Using the words "stuff" and "worth" may have been too leading. "Stuff" is something of not much value, and "worth it" suggests that I might think that it wasn't. And indeed he answered that he felt it was a waste of money.  He was anxious about making his train at 5:41. (It was close but he probably missed it.) I pointed out that we were often pulling forward into spaces that would have been filled by cars. He did say that it was a lot better than it had been  during construction.

Just after stopping to discharge passengers going to Ogilvie Station there was a truck at the corner blocking our lane. Our lane was no longer painted red at that point and we had to cross over to the other side of the street any way to turn onto Clinton. So it was not actually a problem.

On Clinton again the were no cars in the red lane. But there were some private buses in the lane to our left that encroached a foot or so into our lane such that we could not pass them. Our lane on Clinto struck me as being too narrow. At some point there was a red light without any cross traffic that we waited on. As we approached Union Station one of the private buses discharged passengers in the red lane in front of us. That delayed us.

At Jackson I got off the bus and walked the four blocks to Jak's.

In the next installment of my series on the Loop Link I will discuss why I think it is already a huge success. 

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