CHICAGO (CBS)– Aside from a bright blue exterior, a bus on the CTA’s new Jeffery Jump route doesn’t look that special.

But the bus gets special treatment that cuts seven minutes off the normal 16-mile trip along Jeffery Boulevard from 103rd Street to downtown.

CTA officials are hopeful that the route, which began Monday, will open the door for innovations for bus travel in the city. The service links neighborhoods Hyde Park, Jackson Park and South Shore to downtown via an express bus route that features trip-quickening elements like designated bus lanes between 67th and 83rd streets, fewer stops and special traffic signals during rush hour.

It’s being funded by an $11 million Federal Transit Administration grant that was awarded in 2010.

The route, which follows the former X14 express route, runs for 16 miles along Jeffery Boulevard from 103rd Street to downtown, and sees about 12,000 riders on weekdays.

The #15 Jeffery Local bus will continue to provide more local service to passengers, and stops in the downtown area have not changed.

Service is slated to get even faster early next year, when buses will be given priority at traffic signals between 71st and 83rd streets. Special traffic signals will also be installed at intersections where bottlenecking occurs to allow buses to travel through the intersection before regular traffic.

The Jeffery Jump bus was crowded but not full during the Monday morning rush hour. For some riders, like Marcus Nosado, the new service was a quicker way for him to get downtown. “The Blue Line isn’t this fast,” he said. “I’ll definitely keep using it.”

Other riders, like Raven Evans, aren’t so sure. The southeast side resident, who works at a hotel downtown, often rides the X14 route to work. But she’s wary of what the commute will be like once cold weather hits.

“It’s faster, but it’s more inconvenient,” Evans said. “I had to walk so far. I probably won’t use it in the winter.”

The CTA hopes the Jeffery Jump bus will serve as a study for improving bus transit across the city. The CTA is partnering with the Chicago Department of Transportation to evaluate and develop Bus Rapid Transit routes for Ashland and Western avenues, and well as the Loop.

The Jeffery Jump has the same $2.25 fare as other CTA buses. Updated bus stations with new sidewalk surfaces and more weather protection have been placed along the route as well.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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