Kara Kilmer boarded the bus at Belmont Avenue and Sheridan Road in Lakeview and checked her phone as she sat in her leather seat.
To her left, another rider worked on his laptop using the bus' WiFi. There were only a few other commuters, so the Monday morning ride was quiet.
Sixteen minutes later, Kilmer got off at the Aon Center for her marketing job. Kilmer was one of about a dozen Chicagoans on Monday who rode Blackline, a new private shuttle from Lakeview to the Loop that boasts air conditioning, WiFi, leather seats and overhead storage space.
"I figured I would try [Blackline] out," said Kilmer, 29, of Lakeview. "Felt like I got to work quicker. We'll see in the long term."
Kilmer said she shaved about 10 minutes off her regular commute on the No. 135-Clarendon/LaSalle Express, which travels between Clarendon and Wilson avenues and Adams Street and Wacker Drive in the mornings.
Blackline debuted two runs Monday, at 7:25 and 8:30 a.m., to compete with the No. 135.
Blackline has more amenities than the CTA, but it is more expensive. The service costs $22.99 for a five-day pass that can only be used in the morning compared to $2 for a CTA bus ride or $2.25 for a CTA train ride. CTA also offers an unlimited seven-day pass for $28.
In its second morning run, Blackline took about 28 minutes to travel from Belmont and Sheridan to Monroe and Franklin streets with stops at Randolph Street and Stetson Avenue and Washington and Clark streets.
The CTA is scheduled to take 32 minutes at 8:30 a.m. to travel from Belmont and Sheridan to Adams and Wacker with a stop at Wacker and Columbus Drive. A CTA spokeswoman declined to comment on Blackline service.
Blackline uses shuttles from Chicagoland Limo, a limousine service based in Des Plaines. Blackline founder Joey Hawilo, 29, wouldn't say what he charges to rent the shuttles or how many people have signed up for Blackline.
He said he is working on launching evening Belmont service soon and plans to expand to Clark Street and Wicker Park/Bucktown.
"It's been smooth so far," said Hawilo, of Lincoln Park.
Mark your calendars for meetings this week about proposed CTA projects.
On Tuesday, DePaul is hosting a talk by Chicago bus rapid transit project manager Christopher Ziemann about a plan to bring express bus service to the Loop this year. The talk will be held 12 to 1 p.m. at the DePaul School of Public Service, 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1600. RSVP to email@example.com.
On Wednesday, the CTA is holding a hearing about its proposal to overhaul four Red Line stations from Lawrence to Bryn Mawr. The meeting will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.
On Thursday, the CTA is hosting a hearing about its proposal to create a bypass north of the Belmont stop to ease Red, Purple and Brown line train traffic there. The meeting will be held 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the 19th District Police Department, 850 W. Addison St.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: North/Clybourn Red Line
The Lincoln Park stop is really a tale of two stations. The stationhouse above ground gleams with white paint and outdoor seating thanks to a $4 million refurbishment three years ago from the neighboring Apple store. But the platform underground is a bit grimy--save for the shiny Apple ads. This stop was really the first test of a private company giving significant aid to a CTA station. The agency is open to other public-private station partnerships, but nothing has materialized since then.
Next up: Cicero Green Line