CHICAGO (CBS) — The CTA hopes to attract more riders by speeding up its buses, and giving buses green light priority over other vehicles is a key part of that strategy, but it says it is encountering problems obtaining federal grant money that’s been in the hands of the Regional Transportation Authority since 2012.
The $40 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant is intended specifically for the bus priority projects. The CTA said it has been able to get $2 million to date, far less than it wants for projects on its 9/Ashland and 49/Western buses, which carry a combined 60,000 riders on the average weekday.
“They’ve been slow to parcel it out, although we’re making some progress and are beginning to get some of that released,” CTA President Forrest Claypool said Wednesday. “We had hoped that they would be willing to spend some of it on basic hardware that is necessary to add traffic signal prioritization.”
The equipment can extend a green light when a bus that has the hardware is running more than two minutes late.
Traffic signals on Ashland between 95th and Cermak and on Western between Howard and 79th have been upgraded to accept the needed equipment, CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase said. Currently, the only CTA bus route to have such equipment is the J14/Jeffrey Jump, which was financed separately, between 73rd and 84th Streets.
An RTA spokesperson indicated that there has been no effort to slow distribution of the grant money. She said RTA planners drew up technical specifications before distributing any grant money, but said it meets monthly with both CTA and Pace on bus priority issues and is about to give CTA more of the grant money.
Pace to date has spent $1.1 million and has encountered no such problems, said spokesman Patrick Wilmot. It is already testing such equipment on three routes in Harvey, where it has reduced rush-hour travel times by up to 15 percent, and has plans to extend the green light priority south to Chicago Heights.
Wilmot said Pace has designated seven other corridors for green light bus priority, including its 383/Cicero Avenue, 364/159th Street, 381 and 385 routes on 95th Street, 350/Sibley, 301 and 308/Roosevelt Road and 565/Grand Avenue lines.