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The CTA Wants To Speed Up Loop Buses With Pre-Paid Boarding

By Sarah Gouda in News on Sep 14, 2016 2:55PM

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Finicky Ventra Cards may soon cease to be the bane of your existence thanks to a pilot that allows commuters to prepay fares at bus stations rather than as they board. The pilot will launch at the Madison and Dearborn bus station along Loop Link on Monday, Sept. 19th.

Customers on the westbound Loop Link buses will be able to prepay before entering the bus station during peak evening hours (3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.). Currently, more than 2,300 CTA users filter through the Madison and Dearborn station each day. During rush hour, the boarding process can take as long as four minutes, which, as any commuter can attest, amounts to four hours and forty four minutes in CTA years. Officials also hope the new system will decrease the occurrence of delays along the route.

“By allowing CTA bus customers to pay fares in advance much like they do to ride the “L”, we will be able to determine how much more quickly customers are able to board buses and how bus service reliability is improved,” said CTA President Dorval Carter in a press release. “This pilot is the latest in a series of improvements we are making to CTA bus service, as part of our commitment to enhancing service and providing a world-class transit experience.”

The Loop Link, which launched in December 2015, grants a separate lane of traffic to CTA buses along Washington, Madison and Clinton to improve the experience of not only bus riders, but drivers and cyclists as well. The Madison and Dearborn station, a stop along the Loop Link, is modernized with a canopy for weather protection, raised platforms and CTA Bus Tracker screens.

One potential inconvenience is that customers will only be able to add on value to their Ventra cards either at the Walgreens directly behind the Madison and Dearborn platform or via the somewhat clumsy Ventra app.

A similar pilot is in process for the #77 Belmont route at the Belmont Blue Line station's bus stop. If feedback from the pilots prove positive, the CTA will look into expanding the prepaid option at other stations. May the hope of all our commutes someday sucking marginally less get us through "the return of ice-cold winter."