BRT Chicago

September 2013




Ashland Avenue BRT Open House Meetings Coming Soon

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will soon announce the publication of the the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project that CTA and CDOT are studying for a 16-mile stretch of Ashland Avenue, and two public open house meetings to present the findings of the EA and gather additional public feedback on the project.

The EA provides a detailed assessment of the social, economic and environmental impacts the BRT project in accordance with federal requirements. As part of the 30-day formal comment period, CTA and CDOT will share project information from the EA at the upcoming open house meetings. The Ashland BRT preferred alternative includes a center bus-only lane to keep buses out of traffic, moving faster and on-schedule, similar to rail lines. Rail-like bus stations would replace stops, and provide amenities for faster boarding and customer comfort .

The proposed BRT on Ashland will:
- Increase bus reliability, so you know when the bus is coming and how long your trip will be
- Increase bus speeds by up to 83% to get you farther faster
- Enhance streetscapes to improve neighborhoods and walking safer and more comfortable with more landscaped medians, pedestrian refuges for crossing the street, better lighting, and wider sidewalks
- Make boarding easier, with ADA ramps at stations and level-boarding (no need to step up)

More information can be found here.


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:

Columbia College Chicago
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP)
Prak‐Sis Contemporary Art Association

See the full list of supporters to the right.

To become a BRT supporter contact Chris Ziemann, BRT Chicago, at cziemann@transitchicago.com, or through John Harris, a5, at jharris@a5inc.com.


Do you ride the Ashland bus? Share your experience.

We know the Ashland bus is popular: ridership is the highest of all CTA routes with over 10 million boardings in 2012. The Ashland BRT would create a more welcoming environment for pedestrians and prioritize transit on the street by converting the center lanes on Ashland Ave. to bus-only lanes -- a smarter way to move people and better balance the needs of everyone who uses our streets.

If you are one of the thousands of people who uses the Ashland bus, the Active Transportation Alliance wants to hear your story. Please share a short testimonial. What is your average ride currently like? What about the current experience needs to be improved? Would faster and more reliable transit on Ashland improve your quality of life?

To fill out the survey, click here.


MPC Introduces New Ashland Avenue BRT Land use Tool Designed for Community, Developer Use

Earlier this month the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released its new Ashland Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Mapping Tool, available at metroplanning.org/brtmap.

The interactive map, provided for free use by community members, developers and others interested in the future of Ashland Avenue and Chicago as a whole, offers detailed information about the corridor along which Chicago’s first gold-standard BRT line is planned to run. MPC’s tool integrates information about zoning, land use, community assets, TIF areas and Census data for areas around stations along the BRT corridor. MPC also evaluated development potential based on current floor area ratio allowances and the city’s proposed TOD ordinance; that information is integrated into the tool.

See the tool here.


MPC Roundtable—BRT: Moving People, Driving Development

Chicago is investing millions of dollars in improved public transportation service on Ashland Avenue, with a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line scheduled to open from 31st Street to Cortland Street by 2015. Better transit service alone may result in transit-oriented development (TOD), but public sector support is necessary to ensure new construction along the corridor.

The Metropolitan Planning Council’s most recent roundtable, BRT: Moving People, Driving Development, set out to discuss what approaches are most effective in spurring development, and how that development can be as equitable as possible. A group of esteemed panelists, including Melinda Pollack of Enterprise Community Partners, and Walter Hook and Annie Weinstock of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), shared their knowledge. Each emphasized the potential for BRT to spur new development in neighborhoods surrounding stations, but noted that the places that have been most successful in encouraging construction have had significant support from the public sector.

MPC has, for several years, been the Chicago region’s most prominent advocate of BRT service and has been successful in working with the city to develop a BRT plan that is appreciated by the city’s residents. Peter Skosey, MPC Executive Vice President, noted that MPC’s work is now evolving to encompass TOD. Bringing more development to areas around transit is an essential way to encourage more people to use public transportation as a part of their daily commutes, thereby reducing automobile vehicle miles traveled and cutting down on pollution. Those new riders also make transit systems more effective, since a bus operating at half capacity is less efficient than one that is full.

To read more, click here.


BRT Exhibits at Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Expo

Bus Rapid Transit was on display at the Hispanic Business Expo put on the by the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in August. BRT project manager Chris Ziemann and Active Transportation Alliance joined BMO Harris Bank, Chicago White Sox, AT&T, Chicago Park District and 125 others at the Expo. The IHCC was one of the earliest BRTChicago supporters.

More than 5,000 attendees made connections with small business owners, corporate leaders, and government agencies through the exhibit hall and educational workshops.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics have accounted for 90 percent of the growth in the state of Illinois since 2000. By the year 2030, one of every three Illinois residents will be of Hispanic origin.

BRTChicago talked with attendees about the benefits of BRT in getting people to and from their destinations efficiently through faster bus speeds, better connectivity with other forms of transit (i.e. rail) and the redevelopment opportunities that can improve neighborhoods.


BRT Debuts in New York on Webster Avenue

In order to provide better transit access to a major residential and commercial corridor in the Bronx, the New York City Dept. of Transportation and the MTA implemented Select Bus Service (very similar to BRT) on Webster Avenue this summer. It features many BRT features such as busonly lanes, branded stations and stops, improved fare collection, and transit signal priority. In addition, the roadway width and character of the street is very similar to Ashland Avenue.

Before:

Rendering with SBS:

After (actual photo):

Using one traffic lane for the bus-only lane, eliminating some left turns, prepaid boarding, and other improvements, buses are speeding up and traffic speeds are projected to improve or stay the same.

In previous SBS projects, bus speeds increased 15-20%, there was a 21% reduction in traffic injuries, and 95% of passengers were either satisfied or very satisfied. Preliminary data on Webster Ave. shows that total ridership on both the SBS and local routes increased 10-12%, and buses are running 11-27% faster. The City made a number of changes to ensure that traffic would continue to flow smoothly and safely, and the result is that traffic continues to flow well along the corridor and bus speeds have improved. Turn restrictions and signal timing changes at the intersection of Webster Avenue and East Fordham Road, the busiest intersection in the Bronx, have improved conditions for all users, especially pedestrians.


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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