How Chicago Turned an Old Bridge into a CX Opportunity

Chicago’s outgoing mayor, Rahm Emanuel, once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.”

When a critical bridge over the Chicago River needed to be replaced, the Chicago Transit Authority needed to reroute one of the city’s most popular bus routes. For three months, the bridge would be out of service and the thousands of passengers who ride the #66 bus would be taken on a detour.

It could have been just a simple service change that everyone would have to endure. The bus would detour, it would go slower, and the riders would be unhappy. But instead, the CTA tried something new.

An innovative new hybrid bus and bike lane was created to speed travel time for the buses and keep bikes separated from car traffic.

The Chicago Tribune notes that “riders, bus operators and cyclists all liked the change, according to surveys conducted by the CTA, Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance, an advocacy group for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.”

When the buses sped past standstill traffic, it was a different (and much better) experience for riders: “I felt like a celebrity. It’s pretty cool,” said one rider in the CTA’s survey.

Nothing is small or simple in transit planning. The effort to create the bike and bus lane took months of work by many people across several city agencies. Changes to normal procedures that may seem small, temporary, or forced by outside events, can be great motivators for improving customer experience. They give people the freedom to innovate—something that is often lost when undertaking big, expansive plans. CX Planning can too often seem like a massive undertaking, but with the right framework (and maybe just one day’s worth of work), you can make marked improvements.