BRT Chicago

August 2013

Supporters Continue to Sign Up to Back BRT in Chicago

Businesses, schools and non-profits are signing up to support the development of a Bus Rapid Transit network in Chicago. In the past few weeks, the following organizations declared support for modern, reliable and fast public transit:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
Element Bars
moss design
URS Corporation

See the full list of supporters to the right.

To become a BRT supporter, click here, or connect with Chris Ziemann, BRT Chicago, at, or through John Harris, a5, at

Survey: Investing in Mass Transit Key to Economic Growth and Job Creation

As part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s focus on transforming cities, the Foundation is supporting local efforts to build Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems in Boston, Chicago, Nashville and Pittsburgh. Rockefeller recently funded research that examines voters’ perceptions and attitudes towards mass transit and their support for BRT in all four cities.

The survey findings illustrate a growing awareness among residents that investments in mass transit are key to economic growth and job creation. They also shed light on the important role mass transit plays in making cities more livable, and the strong potential for BRT to alleviate commuter’s concerns related to reliability, accessibility and travel speeds.

The summary of findings:

- A majority say it is important to invest in public transportation to ensure communities continue to grow and thrive – Boston (91% agree), Chicago (71% agree), Nashville (63% agree) and Pittsburgh (89% agree).

- Many also believe good public transportation helps improve the economy and create jobs – Boston (90% agree), Chicago (88% agree), Nashville (85% agree) and Pittsburgh (85% agree).

- In addition, a majority of voters surveyed in each city support bringing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to their communities – Boston (52% support), Chicago (59% support), Nashville (77% support) and Pittsburgh (66% support).

- More than six-in-ten voters in each city would take BRT instead of driving or other forms of public transit if it made their commute faster.

- A majority of voters in the four cities say they would pay an additional 10 cents a day for better, more reliable public transportation options that reduce their commute – Boston (75% agree), Chicago (71% agree), Nashville (63% agree) and Pittsburgh (70% agree).

- The surveys also showed that voters across the four cities found “reliability” and “accessibility” as the top benefits of BRT, followed by faster travel times.

To see the press release, click here.

The Home Bank & Trust Building, at Ashland/Division, steps from the Blue Line, wouldn't be allowed to be built today without a parking garage behind it. Under the proposed TOD ordinance, however, it would be legal.

Streetsblog: Chicago Striving to Legalize Transit-Oriented Development

Published on Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance Wednesday, July 24 that would reduce some barriers to transit-oriented development in Chicago, lowering parking requirements and allowing more density near transit stations. While the proposal is a step forward, there’s much more the city can do to ensure that future growth leads to more walking and transit use, not more traffic and congestion.

Current rules discourage walkable growth in Chicago by forcing the construction of parking and limiting how much housing can be built, even in areas near transit stations. This pushes growth to places where people have fewer transportation options and have to drive. As highlighted in a recent report from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago is falling behind its peer cities when it comes to transit-oriented growth.

The new ordinance would loosen these restrictions, but it could do much more.

To see how this would work, click here.

Next MPC Roundtable Will Explore How Other Cities Invest in New Transportation Models to Improve Surrounding Neighborhoods While Keeping them Affordable

When: September 11, 2013, 12–1:30 pm
Where: Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St. Suite 1400 Chicago, IL 60603

Chicago is beginning to develop a Bus Rapid Transit network – a transportation solution MPC helped the city adapt for our streets with a 2011 report Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago’s New Route to Opportunity. A new route planned for five miles of Ashland Avenue will transform the surrounding neighborhoods not only by helping people connect to jobs, schools and other destinations, but also with impressive new BRT stations. Permanent, iconic transit stations, like those planned for Chicago’s BRT network, serve as community hubs and attract both residential and retail development. The challenge is to ensure this new development benefits the local communities.

Register online.

Want a Better Bus? Join the Bus Rapid Transit Action Team

Help Riders for Better Transit Mobilize Residents and Businesses in Support of BRT on Ashland Ave.

Riders for Better Transit is hitting the streets to educate businesses and residents about BRT and to mobilize them in support of this bold vision for Chicago's transit future. To be successful in our quest to bring world class public transit to Chicago, we need your help.

Follow this link and complete the form to join the Bus Rapid Transit Action Team in August. Volunteers will work in teams to reach out to businesses and people who ride transit about the benefits of the proposed BRT project on Ashland.

Sign-up here and we'll contact you shortly with more information.

Questions? Email

Coalition Calls for a Bold Vision for Reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive

Active Transportation Alliance is part of a coalition of 15 regional organizations that released a civic platform for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive (PDF). The platform calls for a bold vision that will meet the needs of everyone who uses the lakefront.

The document is based on seven principles and includes a host of recommendations for the Illinois Department of Transportation and Chicago Department of Transportation as they embark on a planning study for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive between Grand and Hollywood avenues.

Please tweet @n_lakeshoredr your opinions and comments or send an email to

For Curitiba, Brazil, BRT is Transformative

In the mid 1960’s the population of Curitiba, Brazil was growing rapidly.

City leaders feared that congestion and pollution would hamper quality of life in the city, which now boasts more than 2.6 million inhabitants. As part of a master planning process, Curitiba leaders developed the first Bus Rapid Transit service in the world, a five-corridor system that encouraged high-density growth near the bus system. Designed to be fast, reliable and efficient, BRT took root in Curitiba with such features as prepaid fares, level boarding, transit signal prioritization (so buses get priority) and high quality transit stations. Today, BRT serves more than one million people daily.

“Our city is a city for people, not for cars,” Jaime Lerner, former mayor of Curitiba, said. No doubt, Curitiba has its fair share of cars, but government estimates released in the 1990’s indicated Brazilians had saved 27 million liters of fuel and 27 million auto trips per year.

The efficiency and the accessibility of BRT make the system vital to the livelihood of Curitiba residents. According to Chris Kopp, transportation planning manager for HNTB Chicago, BRT provides a high degree of mobility for residents of the Brazilian city. “A big lesson for Chicago is that people in Curitiba can get around quickly and inexpensively,” Kopp says. This, in turn, frees up money for residents to support local businesses.

As Chicago maps out its BRT future, Curitiba offers lessons in land use and density, says BRT Chicago manager Chris Ziemann. “By tying BRT development to land use planning, the city created density and growth in the corridors served by BRT.

It’s engrained there. It’s the backbone of the city,” says Ziemann, who spent four months working in Curitiba. “One of the best lessons it teaches us what you can do with limited resources. In the U.S., transportation funding is decreasing nationwide. Curitiba has shown that BRT can be as effective as a street car and almost as much as a train to improve mobility without spending a lot of money. And you can do it quickly.”

In nearly 40 years of transporting Brazilians, Bus Rapid Transit has proven to be effective, efficient and inexpensive, and has been studied by urban and transportation planners from around the world.

What is BRT Chicago?

BRT Chicago is a unique collaboration of city agencies and non-profit partners. CTA, CDOT, and DHED, with the work of the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Active Transportation Alliance, the Civic Consulting Alliance, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, are working to plan and implement a successful Bus Rapid Transit program in Chicago. Each partner provides its own expertise to make the BRT a comprehensive project of transportation, land use, design, and sustainability.

BRT has been identified as an effective transportation solution in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to develop BRT in Chicago. The Chicago Climate Action Plan also identifies BRT as a cost-effective way to expand the city’s transit network. To meet increased demand, the CTA is using elements of BRT on its new Jeffery Jump service, and will along Madison and Washington Streets in the central business district to connect Union Station with Navy Pier. The CTA, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Economic Development, is planning the potential BRT routes along Ashland Avenue.

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