Chicagoist Gets In The Go Lane

By Scott Smith in News on Jun 8, 2005 3:53PM

2005_06_08_sensor.JPGWondering about the look of the CTA buses with an express lane for Chicago Card users? Then wonder no more! Chicagoist ended up riding one of these new buses into downtown today and got to see it in action (or possibly “inaction.”)

We picked up the 156 LaSalle bus at North and LaSalle. While we were waiting, a CTA employee told us we would be boarding one of the new express lane buses. We nodded as the CTA worker spent some time was extolling the virtues of the Chicago Card to another customer. She was a bit confused by the idea of the card itself so she asked us to board first “so I can watch you.” Granted this woman is a pretty small sample size but we wonder how the CTA going to sell the idea of a new express lane for a product if their customer base is only marginally aware that it exists.

When we boarded the bus, the driver immediately pointed us in the direction of the new sensor. 2005_06_08_happycommuter.jpgIt wasn’t until later that we noticed the yellow painted arrows on the ground (though there’s no indication that one arrow is for Chicago Card users and one is for everybody else). No longer on the farebox, the sensor sits to the left of the aisle where people often rest their groceries. We got a nifty flyer (JPG) once we boarded that told us the new express lane is called The Go Lane. Ah the CTA: great at marketing, lousy at public relations.

2005_06_08_freakedcommuter.jpgIt was after rush hour when we rode the bus and this route seemed to consist mostly of fare card users and little old ladies who favor cash. The woman above seemed tickled pink at the new sensor but the woman on the left looked like she was afraid it was going to give her hepatitis.

More thoughts and pictures after the jump...

With the limited number of passengers and Chicago Card users, the new sensor didn’t seem to affect our commute one way or the other; it didn’t slow things down but it didn’t speed things up much either though that’s the CTA’s reasoning for adopting the technology in the first place. If there’s a crush of people getting on at once, how much confusion will there be about who goes where? Why not continue to use a sensor on the farebox but also use the new Go Lane sensor as well?

Speaking of multiple sensors, the system can only pick up one “read” at a time. So if someone uses the farebox at the same time as the person using the Go Lane then the Go Lane passenger’s card might not read (the "beep" for both sensors only sounds at the farebox). What does that lead to? Inadvertent fare evasion, at best. Maybe we’re pessimists, but we could also see plenty of people arguing that they flashed their card at the sensor even when they didn’t. So there’s the possibility of intentional fare evasion too.

For now, this is a pilot program. Chicagoist saw two CTA employees on the bus this morning counting customers and tracking usage of the new sensor. We’re hoping the CTA is testing this on higher traffic routes and deals with the potential problems of the Go Lane before adopting it system-wide.