BRT Chicago

December 2013

Ashland BRT Rally and Public Meetings Prove Successful

Last week, CTA and CDOT hosted two public meetings on the Ashland BRT Environmental Assessment (EA). From both meetings, 220 people signed in, 106 comment cards were submitted, 32 people provided comments to court reporters, and two people submitted personal letters. The turnout was very strong, and CTA presented a wide variety of information in various formats on the environmental impacts of the preferred alternative, which would almost double the speed of buses, increase reliability, and make boarding easier with iconic stations.

In addition, the Active Transportation Alliance and MPC hosted a pre-public meeting rally before the first meeting in Pilsen that attracted about 50 BRT supporters. Representatives from community groups, residents, MPC, and UIC spoke on why they support BRT on Ashland Avenue, then the group marched to the public meeting to learn more about the Environmental Assessment and to leave comments.

Thank you to everyone who attended and provided comments. If you would like to view the documents presented at the Ashland EA Public Meetings, please click here. CTA will continue to respond to neighborhood comments throughout the next engineering phase, but the official comment period for the EA will close on December 20. You can email comments 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:

Nevin Hedlund Architects, Inc.
Seven Generations Ahead
US Green Building Council – Illinois Chapter
Wicker Park/Bucktown SSA #33

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

Innovative Stations Planned for Central Loop BRT

During its continued outreach to stakeholders, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled an early design for the new BRT stations for the Central Loop BRT. These stations are level with the bus, making it fast and easy for everyone to safely board, including seniors and people using wheelchairs. The longer, covered stations also keep travelers comfortable and dry, and bus tracking monitors keep passengers informed of bus arrival times. The sleek, elegant design is inspired by the 2013 Burnham Prize winner, Form vs. Uniform, of the NEXT STOP: Designing Chicago BRT Stations competition sponsored by the Chicago Architectural Club and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Construction of the Central Loop BRT is expected to start in spring 2014, with service starting late 2014. The corridor will use bus-only lanes on Washington, Madison, Clinton and Canal to move people through downtown, improving reliability and speed for more than six bus routes, while extending benefits to neighborhoods throughout the city. Bicycle travel in the Loop will also be improved with protected bike lanes on Washington, Randolph and Clinton.

Learn more about the Central Loop BRT at CDOT’s website.

Chicago Looking to Raise the Bar with "Gold-Standard" Bus Rapid Transit

A century ago, Chicago’s electrified street cars sped down (mostly) dedicated lanes on busy commercial streets. Today local buses are stuck in the same traffic as everyone else. Having examined this inefficiency problem with a fresh pair of eyes, Chicago is getting on board with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a cost-effective use of existing road capacity that provides commuters with a reliable, fast, affordable and green way to travel. With limited stops and dedicated lanes, as well as permanent, iconic stations and the buses’ ability to sustain a green light until it clears the intersection, BRT has the appeal of rail without the hefty price tag.

Chicago isn’t just pursuing BRT; it’s pursuing “Gold Standard” BRT to squeeze the most value out of this development generator. And it’s the first city in the U.S. to aim this high. To meet gold standard, Chicago’s BRT service must include dedicated right-of-way, off-board fair collection, at-grade boarding and signal priority.

Click here to read more.

Click here to see the full PIRG report.

Driving Declines; Biking, Public Transit Gain Among Largest Cities in the Nation

Chicago – A first-of-its-kind report by Illinois PIRG Education Fund shows reduced rates of car commuting in Illinois’ urbanized areas — including Chicago — and greater use of public transit and biking.

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Illinois and across the country,” said Dev Gowda, Advocate for the Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “We need to stop wasting money on new and expanded highways and invest instead in improving public transit and biking, which are growing around the country.”

"With transit ridership breaking records across the country, rising gas prices, and baby boomers and young people moving back to cities from suburbs, it is no surprise that people want to drive less,” said Christopher Ziemann, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Chicago Project Manager. “Common sense says that we need to invest in fast, reliable, transformative transit. Cities around the world, including Chicago, are successfully using Bus Rapid Transit to address the future and to maintain their competitive edge as 21st Century cities. The Central Loop BRT and the Ashland Avenue BRT projects are two world-class examples of how Chicago is working to make downtown and neighborhoods greener, more connected and more attractive to current and future residents and businesses who either cannot or do not want to drive as much as before."

Click here to read more.

Mexico City BRT Helps Traffic and Businesses while Reducing Pollution and Attracting Riders

With 21 million people living in Mexico City, it is one of the world’s most populous cities and one of the most challenging to navigate. And the resulting pollution from vehicles made Mexico City the most polluted city in the world by the early 1990s. The United Nations called it “the most dangerous city in the world for children.” Recognizing the city was in crisis, leadership developed a Bus Rapid Transit system in Mexico City to improve traffic and reduce pollution by putting more people onto buses.

Metrobus, the first BRT line in Mexico City, opened in 2005 and grew quickly. Marcel Ebrar, then mayor, called it “the most important initiative in the last 25 years.” The buses feature off board fare collection, raised platforms for easy traffic onto the bus, a designated bus lane. The Bus Rapid Transit system of Mexico City, now comprised of five lines with a sixth on the way, serves over 200 million boardings a year (CTA’s entire bus system serves just over 300 million boardings per year).

Since the implementation of Metrobus, traffic speeds have risen not just for the buses but for car traffic as well, bringing the average speed from 7 mph to 10 mph for cars and almost 20 mph for buses. The average travel time for commuters decreased by more than 50 percent on all Metrobus corridors.

The city expects air quality to greatly improve now that Metrobus is making transit easier and its bike sharing program, Ecocici, is gaining popularity. According to Metrobus official Gonzalo Garcia Miaja, there will be a 54 percent reduction in carbon monoxide exposure. In addition to traffic and air quality benefits, Walter Hook, CEO of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), said business along the Metrobus corridors has greatly improved since implementation of the new bus system. Property values along the BRT corridors have also improved. The expansion of Mexico City’s Bus Rapid Transit system, bicycle sharing program and walking infrastructure has earned it Harvard University’s Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership and the 2013 Sustainable Transport Award from ITDP.

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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