171: U. of Chicago / Hyde Park

March 31, 2023

Finally, a bus that's been on my bucket list for quite a while now. Why? The 171 is the most deviatory bus route on the CTA, with an Eliot Deviation Index of a 2.08 (going northbound, still a 1.65 southbound - I'll get into it). I found myself with some free time last week to take a trip to Hyde Park to ride the 171 and 172, which are shuttle routes around the large campus of the University of Chicago.

There isn't much of a difference between the 171 and 172, but significant enough that the 172 will get a separate post another day. The 171 is kind-of a loop, but still eligible for the Eliot Deviation Index at the same time. The route oes the following starting from 60th Street - east to Dorchester, north a block to 59th, west three blocks to University, north to 55th, east 7 blocks to the lake and looping up to 53rd at the lake. The route goes back west along 55th, south on Ellis (8 blocks west of the lake), and back east on 60th. The reason that the EDI for the route is different for each direction is due to the longer distance from the northbound trip going back west along 59th. It's a 15 minute ride from end-to-end in either direction.

In terms of the scheduling, it runs 6 days a week (no Sunday service unfortunately) with 30 minute headways between 6 am and 7 pm during weekdays, and 8 am to 6 pm on Saturdays. There are some times in the morning and afternoon rush that the route sees 15 minute headways. Not terrible, I think the 172 is a bit more frequent. It is a peak-only route over the summer, though, when students aren't around to ride.

The route does a really good job at connecting around the campus, even with it's deviatory routing. Most of the UChcicago campus is within an easy walk of stops along the 171 and 172, and it connects to other destinations off-campus. The 171's eastern end is near Promontory Point, which has really good views of the skyline on a nice day, along with businesses along 55th. Connections can also be easily made to Metra Electric service at 55th / 56th / 57th Streets on Metra Electric with a 20 minute trip to downtown.

For ridership, this route is really good as well. I rode on a Friday afternoon while classes were in session, and it was a lot of college-age students on the bus with me. Nobody wa riding the entire thing, but there wwas always a good chunk of riders onboard, getting on and off at various stops along the route. Since the 171 is a shorter route catering to the university, it is a lesser-used route compared to other CTA bus routes. In 2021, there were 82,145 rides on the 171, up from 80,614 in 2020, and down from 268,686 in 2019.

Final thoughts - Despite the deviatory-ness and the lower ridership figures, the 171 is a really useful route. While many students will just walk to class if it's nice out or buildings are close together, it is really helpful to have a shuttle bus route around the campus for those longer journeys. In addition, it's helpful that the route serves other places that are off-campus, and allow for easy connections to other modes of transit to get around the city. The route is open for anyone to ride as well. UChicago certainly isn't the only school to have these types of buses, and they are pretty useful everywhere they can be found.

Published: Mar 31, 2023 15:40