After reading Windy City Mike's email about the CTA adding a "bus-only" option on its Trip Planner page, and after hearing plaintive pleas to "leave early, leave late, alternate," I checked out a Red Line bus alternative recently.
And it looked promising on the Trip Planner site: Board the 147 Outer Drive Express at Sheridan and Farwell at 7:17 am and arrive at Michigan and Ohio at 7:47 am. After a two block walk I figured I'd be at my office in 40 minutes door-to-door. It often now takes me 45 to 50 minutes door-to-door from Morse on the Red Line to Grand and State. So that sounded too good to be true.
I left my house at 7:06 for the five minute walk to Sheridan, thinking maybe I could catch an earlier bus. I didn't, but fine. So I waited. And waited.
And the 7:17 bus arrived at 7:24. I understand that these times are approximate and subject to the whims of traffic and weather. But I didn't expect the bus would already be seven minutes late just one mile out of the Howard terminal starting point.
The other maddening thing is that the bus stops at nearly every single block. I really think most people wouldn't mind walking a block and have the bus stop at every other block if they knew it could shave 5 to 10 minutes off the total commute time.
So after the bumpy start, I hoped for the best. But alas, my dreams for a better Red Line alternative were dashed.
First, I didn't realize we wouldn't enter Lake Shore Drive until Foster. So those extra boardings seemed endless.
And the bus that was supposed to be at Michigan and Ohio at 7:47 had only made it to Lake Shore Drive and Marine Drive by that time. And then it was time to crawl on the jam-packed Drive.
It took 25 minutes just to get from Foster to Irving Park. After Irving Park we picked up speed a bit, but not by much. There was no accident. It had rained the previous night but the rain had stopped by daybreak.
So we got on the Drive at 7:47 and got to the next stop at 8:25 --38 minutes on Lake Shore Drive. We got to Ohio and Michigan at 8:32. So a bus ride that was supposed to take 30 minutes ended up taking 75 minutes.
I think it's fine to encourage Red, Brown and Purple Line riders to take alternative bus routes during the three-track nightmare. But I also think the CTA needs to do a better job of setting expectations of riders by adjusting the travel times upward on the Web site.