April 15 2013

Making My Life a Little Easier: BRT Is Coming to Chicago

Last month, I was able to share some information with you about an exciting transit project that I have had the pleasure of working on in Kane County, IL – the Randall/Orchard Road Bus Rapid Transit Study.  As I stated then, “Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high quality transit service that integrates a variety of strategies aimed at improving transit travel speed, reliability, passenger comfort, and transit identity over traditional fixed-route bus service.”  This month, I have the even greater pleasure of sharing some information on a BRT project that is taking place in my home city of Chicago.

BRT Is Faster Than Regular BusesChicago Transit Authority (CTA) urban planners are working “in partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), Department of Housing and Economic Development (DHED), and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)” to bring BRT to one of the most traveled corridors across Chicago. In December 2010, the CTA was awarded $1.6 million in grant money from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to perform a Livability Alternatives Analysis in order to better plan on how to make BRT a reality in Chicago along Ashland and Western Avenues.  Ashland and Western Avenues are perfectly suited for BRT, as these avenues have second and third (respectively) highest CTA ridership, while 1 in 4 Chicagoans also live within a ½ mile of these corridors (this writer included).

BRT ScheduleThe Livability Alternatives Analysis produced 4 design concepts in regards to how BRT lines can be placed along Chicago’s streets.  These concepts were presented to the public during October 2012.  Ultimately, CTA urban planners settled on the “Center Running BRT” concept.  The proposed BRT line has several features that will distinguish it from a typical local Chicago Bus Line:

  • The two inside lanes of Ashland Avenue would be dedicated solely to BRT bus traffic (all other automobiles would be prohibited from using these lanes);

  • To board the buses, passengers would use one of several BRT platforms that will be constructed along the medium of Ashland Avenue, in roughly ½ mile intervals;

  • BRT stations will have bike racks and signs that will convey transit times to passengers;

  • The buses will have extra-wide doors to better facilitate passenger traffic;

  • Passengers would pay before entering the buses to expedite the boarding process; and

  • Traffic lights will be rigged to minimize the amount of time buses spend at traffic lights.

Currently, the City of Chicago is exploring the possibility of implementing the proposed BRT concept along only Ashland Avenue, expanding to Western Avenue sometime in the future.

What do you think about Chicago’s proposed plan to bring BRT to Ashland Avenue?  Do you think a similar concept could be implemented in your city?

Credits: Images by the Chicago Transit Authority.  Data linked to sources.

Sean Glowacz

Sean Glowacz holds a Masters of Urban Planning and Public Policy degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sean spent two years at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning as a Research Assistant. His work focused on various tasks related to the GO TO 2040 plan, the comprehensive regional plan to help Chicagoland’s seven counties and 284 communities plan for sustainable prosperity through mid-century and beyond. Sean was then employed by Kane County for three years as a Land Use Planner, primarily working on their Quality of Kane campaign, an effort to help bring Healthy People, Healthy Living, and Healthy Communities to Kane County through cutting-edge planning policies and practices. Currently, Sean is employed by Target Group, Inc., working on large scale economic development projects in the City of Chicago. Currently residing in Chicago, Sean introduced readers to an array of urban planning projects that are taking place throughout the Chicagoland area.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 15th, 2013 at 9:33 am and is filed under Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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