Time for a bus, I guess. Throughout the scavenger hunt, we’ve ridden multiple buses to get from one place to another, but the 151 is special. Some of my readers may know that I have ridden the entirety of the 151. That is true. But why? Why did I ride the entirety of the 151? Why did I sit through the nearly 2 hour slog up local streets? Why didn’t I tell the 151 story when I did that long ride? Well, the 151 story starts with the scavenger hunt.
After Caleb had to catch his Capitol Limited back to Pittsburgh, me and Stormy still wanted to complete the scavenger hunt. Our next destination was the Chicago Water Tower, which is a water tower from 1869, and one of the few structures in the area to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Where is it exactly? It’s on Michigan Avenue, home to way too many bunched buses and not enough bus infrastructure. Since we were at Union Station sending Caleb off on his own back home, our way to get there was the 151.
We went outside to the bus terminal and waited. Now the Union Station bus terminal does not have real-time departure information… despite having screens that indicate that it may have real-time information (I mean… I’ve seen worse, but that’s for another post). Stormy made sure to point this out on Twitter, saying “@cta why are the informational screens at the Union Station transit Center showing L train information, and not bus information? I feel like, this being a bus station, bus information would be more important” (yes, Stormy does occasionally use the speech-to-text feature). Unbeknownst to me or Stormy, the 151 runs every 20 minutes on Sunday (or holiday) nights (when we got there, it was 6:30). We waited just about 20 minutes… so poor luck. Anyways, after a wait, the bus arrived and we were moving once again.
The 151 is not a bad bus route. Sure, it travels along a lot of busy streets where it is prone to bus bunching. Traveling about 10 and a half miles from one end to the other, the 151 has an Eliot Deviation Index of 1.22. The route is a slog, traveling along its namesake street, Sheridan, for a large part of the journey. It does wiggle its way around the streets of downtown and serves the Gold Coast along Inner Lake Shore Drive.
What happened after our visit to the Water Tower? Our next destination was Lincoln Park - specifically the park, not just the neighborhood (but where we filmed that clip was technically in the Lincoln Park community area). We went back to the 151 bus stop and waited. We looked down Michigan a few moments later, and there it was, a northbound 151. Seriously? We just waited 20 minutes for one and all of a sudden there’s one 5 minutes behind it? Bus bunching takes the cake, once again. I don’t like bus bunching at all, but living in Chicago, I’ve seen it in a lot of places.
So there I was, just about three weeks after the scavenger hunt, at about 11:15 in the morning. I show up at the Union Station Transit Center, at the bay for the 151, and there’s a 151 just waiting there. Problem is - it’s the other variant. There are two variants of the 151, one short-turns at Belmont. The other continues all the way to Clark and Devon, at 6400 North and at the southern edge of Rogers Park. I waited for the next Clark and Devon run, got a snack, and hopped on the bus when it got there. The ride… was slow. It took nearly two hours (1 hour and 47 minutes, to be exact) to go from one end to the other. Granted - there was some emergency stuff downtown blocking the bus lane. Ridership, on this midday Friday that I rode it, was consistent for most of the route. There were a lot of boardings downtown, some ons and offs through the Gold Coast, but a lot of people got off through Lake View around the Belmont Ave area. Even though the bus was quieter, there were still a few people on board at a time through Clark and Devon. I did see some 151 trips bunched going south… so yeah, bunching is a bit of an issue on CTA buses.
Final thoughts - don’t ride it from one end to the other. The Red Line is quicker. Way quicker. For short trips, and especially east of the Red Line, where there are no trains but a lot of homes and lakeside attractions, these buses are very important. Can we get some more bus lanes please?
Posted: Oct 14, 2022 14:18
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