(This is the Third in a series of Loop Link posts. Previous.)
I finally got the chance Wednesday March 3rd to actually ride the "Loop Link." I call it a "Bus Priority Transitway." I call it that because the words we use have effects. Words can create expectations and those expectations can further define something as a success or a failure. There are those who have called the Loop Link "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT). I get why they call it that, but in doing so they set themselves up for ridicule.
No transit in and through the loop is rapid. The slowest parts of all the "rapid transit" el lines are in and around the loop. The red and blue subways spend much more time per mile in the loop than any other part of their rapid transit journeys. All the elevated loop lines slow down significantly through and around the loop. It is self-evident and expected. So to brand a busway that transits the loop "rapid" is not a good idea.
Yet still the Loop Link is already a huge success. Again why? You know the old joke about the crazy thing that keeps elephants away? "Why are you holding that Barbie Doll? To keep the elephants away. There are no elephants around here. See it's working."
Why are those traffic lanes painted red? To keep the cars away. There are no cars in the red lanes. See it's working.
Do you remember reading the comments section of Streetsblog or DNAinfo in articles about the upcoming Loop Link? Remember the trolls and doom-sayers saying it would be a waste of money? Remember them specifically saying that just red paint would not work to keep the cars out? Remember them saying Chicago drivers would never respect dedicated bus lanes? I certainly do. And that my friend is why the Loop Link is already a huge success.
The most important aspect of the Loop Link "Bus Priority Transitway" are its dedicated lanes. What has ruined downtown streets for our bus systems has been and continues to be car congestion. Therefore the most critical thing that the Loop Link needed to work was for its buses to get priority over the scarce geometric resource called street space. And priority means that cars do not get to go where-ever they want to go.
And it is not just my single anecdotal report either. Others have commented with surprise that cars are respecting their lower class status on the Loop Link street spaces. Listen carefully and the sounds coming from the Loop Link trolls and naysayers about cars not respecting the red lanes is crickets.
"Already?" Already a success? I say that to remind us that the Loop Link is not yet even finished. It is not finished yet and it is already demonstrating success. One could even say that it is only one quarter done. There are three major elements that remain to be installed that will contribute to further the success of the Loop Link:
- The Transit Center at Union Station
- Signal Priority
- Pre-Paid Boarding