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Go Lane? More Like Slow Lane...

By Scott Smith in News on Feb 7, 2006 2:43PM

2006_02_cc.jpgLast year, Chicagoist reported on our experience with the CTA’s Go Lane buses. At the time, we said “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.” Now that more Go Lane buses are in use and many CTA customers have adopted the Chicago Card thanks to a fare increase, Chicagoist wondered if that would change. Based on our experiences with the buses, we have to conclude that the Go Lane bus is like most of the CTA’s capital improvement projects: short on forethought, nice in theory, lousy in practice.

We don’t have much of a beef about Go Lanes in “L” stations. As discussed by Metroblogging Chicago back in July, being able to dodge the confused and the out-of-towners at the turnstiles is priceless. Moreover, the use of Chicago Cards, in general, does speed up the bus boarding process in the same way that magnetic strip cards are faster than customers who use cash.

Yet the specially configured Go Lane buses (with the sensor to the left of the entrance) don’t seem to have any appreciable effect on boarding due to the problems we discussed in our previous post: crowding at the entrance and the inability of the bus to read more than one card at a time.

The width of the bus entrance always has us feeling as if we’re pushing ahead in line and thereby violating a social contract of some kind; there’s not so much a “Go Lane” as there is a “Go Space.” As a result, we’re only able to access the new sensor when there’s just one person in line ahead of us and we still have wait for that person to scan their card before we’re able to do so. On two previous occasions when we’ve pushed ahead in line and scanned our card on the Go Lane sensor, we’ve been called back up to the front of the bus by the driver for a rescan. On those days, our Chicago Card became part of the problem of delayed bus service, not the solution. Keeping the sensor in its original location would still allow for quick boarding and keep potential shoving matches to a minimum.

In the same way iTunes exists mainly to sell more iPods, the Go Lane buses seem designed to encourage more people to adopt the use of Chicago Cards. And again: we’re down with the cards themselves. But why spend the money on fitting buses with sensors that don’t alleviate a problem and in some cases make it worse?