WBEZ: Will Chicago scale back its bus rapid transit plan?
|Concept of the Ashland BRT|
The city can stick to its plans and push for federal funds to build what would be the nation’s most advanced “bus rapid transit” line. The project would transform Ashland Avenue, beginning with a 5.4-mile leg that would connect several passenger rail lines before they reach the Loop and, planners say, spur economic development that benefits the entire Chicago region.I can only wonder what the benefits would be when the CTA finally builds the full 16 mile BRT route? Would there be any benefits on the South Side especially through Englewood and further south than that?
But there could be significant collateral damage, especially to the trucking operations of companies in an historic industrial corridor along the route.
The Chicago Transit Authority says the BRT line, which could eventually lengthen to 16 miles, would cut the average Ashland bus ride time roughly in half. But some companies in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and a few large retailers nearby say they would struggle too much to make and receive deliveries and keep customers flowing in. The companies are pushing hard for the Emanuel administration to eliminate some of the project’s key features for speeding up bus service.
Along the route’s initial leg, which would stretch from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, the competing interests are obvious.
Just outside Rush University Medical Center, one of four major hospitals in the Illinois Medical District, a half-dozen patients and staffers huddled in the cold one evening this week at a bus stop. They included Larry Coldiron, a Rush computer consultant who lives near Midway International Airport and gets to ride the CTA’s Orange Line train for most of his commute. But his trip home starts with the Number 9 bus down Ashland — the city’s most heavily used bus route. He said the 2.5-mile journey between the hospital and train usually takes 45 minutes.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 and a half years and it just keeps getting worse,” Coldiron said.
The BRT project would bring big changes. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. To keep the buses moving through intersections, most opportunities to turn left from Ashland would be eliminated and many traffic signals would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms averaging a half mile apart. The CTA is also aiming for pre-paid boarding to eliminate lines in bus doorways. The project’s environmental assessment says the BRT buses would move up to 83 percent faster than today’s buses.
“I’d like to see it,” Coldiron said. Service that fast could attract some of his coworkers who now drive and pay for parking around the hospital, he said.