WBEZ | BRT http://www.wbez.org/tags/brt Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Will Chicago scale back its bus rapid transit plan? http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AndrewsCROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 315px; width: 300px;" title="Dan Andrews of Kennicott Brothers says squeezing Ashland Avenue traffic into one lane and removing most left turns would hamstring the business. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />After wrapping up a public-comment period in an ambitious Chicago bus project, Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration faces tough choices about the design.<br /><br />The city can stick to its plans and push for federal funds to build what would be the nation&rsquo;s most advanced &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; 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.<br /><br />But there could be significant collateral damage, especially to the trucking operations of companies in an historic industrial corridor along the route.<br /><br />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&rsquo;s key features for speeding up bus service.<br /><br />Along the route&rsquo;s initial leg, which would stretch from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street, the competing interests are obvious.<br /><br />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&rsquo;s Orange Line train for most of his commute. But his trip home starts with the Number 9 bus down Ashland &mdash; the city&rsquo;s most heavily used bus route. He said the 2.5-mile journey between the hospital and train usually takes 45 minutes.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been doing this for 16 and a half years and it just keeps getting worse,&rdquo; Coldiron said.<br /><br />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&rsquo;s environmental assessment says the BRT buses would move up to 83 percent faster than today&rsquo;s buses.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see it,&rdquo; Coldiron said.&nbsp;Service that fast could attract some of his coworkers who now drive and pay for parking around the hospital, he said.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s exactly the idea, said Benet Haller, a top planner at the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development. &ldquo;They would have more money to spend on other things &mdash; like food, retail goods and housing.&rdquo;<br /><br />Haller said the BRT line would promote development in the medical district, where employment already totals 29,000, and in industrial areas along the route. He said it would also give a shot in the arm to many restaurants and retailers, especially ones that lack their own parking lots. Haller said the economic impact could extend throughout the Chicago region.<br /><br />&ldquo;All of our expressways are, pretty much, at capacity,&rdquo; Haller said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no real easy possibility to improve any of them. So, if we want to thrive, it&rsquo;s really going to come to reinvestment back in the central part of Chicago because it&rsquo;s the one part of the region in which there&rsquo;s a really robust transit network.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>THE CTA IS GUNNING TO BUILD</strong> the initial leg by 2017. Agency officials say they will apply for Federal Transportation Administration grants to cover an estimated $60 million in costs for detailed design and construction. Later phases would extend the BRT to Irving Park Road and 95th Street and cost another $100 million, the agency says.<br /><br />But there would be other costs, particularly to local businesses whose lifeblood is truck delivery. Those include Kennicott Brothers, an employee-owned flower wholesaler centered at 452 N. Ashland Ave., about a mile north of the medical district.<br /><br />Dan Andrews, a Kennicott manager, says the company runs 13 vans from that location for deliveries to neighborhood florists, grocery stories and companies that help throw events such as weddings and parties. &ldquo;Normally our customers will order in the morning,&rdquo; Andrews said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll load up the van with orders for that day and then send them out.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews is worried because the BRT design would leave just one lane on each side of Ashland for cars, trucks and regular buses, slowing down the Kennicott vans. &ldquo;It would probably be like rush hour all day,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The CTA acknowledges that the Ashland traffic would move slower. A spokeswoman says a peak-hour car trip that now takes 30 minutes would take 36 minutes with BRT in place.<br /><br />Another concern for Andrews is the loss of intersections for turning left off Ashland. &ldquo;With the BRT line, I&rsquo;d have to take three right turns and then I would have to go through a residential area.&rdquo;<br /><br />Andrews has more than deliveries to worry about. Many of Kennicott&rsquo;s customers pick up their flowers. &ldquo;If they can&rsquo;t get to our location, they&rsquo;re going to choose either another vender or they might choose to be delivered to,&rdquo; he said, pointing out expenses associated with deliveries.<br /><br />If Chicago sticks with its BRT plan, Andrews says his company might have to find a location away from Ashland Avenue. &ldquo;It costs you a lot of money to move your company,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Economic-development groups in the Kinzie corridor are speaking up for businesses like Kennicott. &ldquo;These companies need every advantage they can to compete in our city,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.<br /><br />&ldquo;Nealey Foods has about 40 trucks every morning,&rdquo; Romanelli said, reeling off names of businesses potentially hamstrung by the BRT project. &ldquo;These companies are critical to our economy.&rdquo;<br /><br />Romanelli says slowing the traffic down and banning the turns would also be unfair to big retailers like Costco, which employs more than 100 people in a new facility at Ashland and 14th Street. He points out that diverting traffic to other congested arteries would not much help much.<br /><br />The Emanuel administration, Romanelli says,&nbsp;ought to scrap the Ashland project and focus on existing buses.&nbsp;Romanelli&nbsp;suggests speeding up service by simply eliminating some stops and using transponders to give buses longer green lights. &ldquo;BRT is not the only solution for Ashland Avenue,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br /><strong>A FEDERALLY REQUIRED 30-DAY PERIOD</strong> for public comment about the environmental assessment ended Friday. Now Mayor Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has to decide whether to make adjustments that might please the plan&rsquo;s business critics but slow the bus service.<br /><br />Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, describes the clashing interests. &ldquo;Planners always want the 100-percent solution,&rdquo; he said, pointing to the goal of regional economic growth over the long term. &ldquo;And local businesses are worried about the bottom line today and tomorrow.&rdquo;<br /><br />Blankenhorn says the city should help companies find ways to bypass Ashland and maybe even allow a few more left turns across BRT lanes. &ldquo;But you have to protect the integrity of the transportation investment you&rsquo;re making,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />On Ashland, that means a bus system fast enough to attract thousands of new riders.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 16:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/will-chicago-scale-back-its-bus-rapid-transit-plan-109423 Morning Shift: To code or not to code http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-20/morning-shift-code-or-not-code-109418 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Code cover Flickr QualityFrog.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Wired editor Brendan Koerner and tech writer Jathan Sadowski debate the merits of teaching computer science in public school. We examine Americans&#39; shifting belief in a higher power. And, Vic Miguel &amp; Friends bring their ukes down to Studio 6.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-to-code-or-not-to-code" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: To code or not to code" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 20 Dec 2013 08:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-20/morning-shift-code-or-not-code-109418 Bus rapid transit to ‘maximize potential’ of Ashland Avenue http://www.wbez.org/news/bus-rapid-transit-%E2%80%98maximize-potential%E2%80%99-ashland-avenue-106738 <p><p style=""><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Ashland..PNG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 195px; width: 350px;" title="Each direction would have one parking lane and one traffic lane. (Chicago Transit Authority)" /></p><p>The first phase of a closely watched Chicago bus project would &ldquo;maximize street potential&rdquo; along more than five miles of Ashland Avenue for about $50&nbsp;million, city officials announced Friday.</p><p>The project would establish bus rapid transit (BRT) along that congested artery from 31st Place to Cortland Avenue. The city will study possible extensions stretching as far south as 95th Street and as far north as Irving Park Road, according to a statement from the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Department of Transportation.</p><p>&ldquo;Bus rapid transit is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to expand and modernize our city&rsquo;s transit network for the 21st century,&rdquo; Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the statement. &ldquo;We will work with our local communities to best determine how to maximize the positive impacts BRT would provide to riders, while boosting local economic development and improving quality of life for all city residents.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187">revealed the Ashland route and the project&rsquo;s key design elements</a> in January. The buses would have a lane to themselves on both sides of a landscaped median. Traffic signals at some intersections would favor the buses. Passengers would board from platforms a half-mile apart. Parking would remain on both sides.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6p1YGHLqDo8" width="560"></iframe></p><p><br />The statement says the design would &ldquo;allow the potential&rdquo; for off-board fare collection, a feature that averts delays from collecting fares in bus doorways. A new CTA video (above) shows that payment taking place at kiosks on station platforms.</p><p>Cars and trucks would have just one lane in each direction&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;a plan that has sparked opposition from some business groups along the route. City officials have responded that the project would slow automobiles and trucks just slightly and speed up bus service more than 80 percent during peak hours.</p><p>Transit experts say banning turns across bus lanes is the key BRT intersection treatment. The video renderings of reconfigured Ashland intersections do not show any left-turn lanes.</p><p>CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis confirmed Friday that the Ashland project will eliminate left turns from the avenue&nbsp;at some intersections. She said her agency is embarking on a study to help determine which ones.</p><p>The elimination of turns is another step that worries the business groups.</p><p>&ldquo;Getting trucks around, where they might turn left into a loading dock now, they&rsquo;ll have to obviously make three [right turns] to be able to do that,&rdquo; said Benjamin Spies, a spokesman for the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, which represents 430 member businesses in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re concerned about what this would do to freight traffic.&rdquo;</p><p>The Emanuel administration was also considering Western Avenue for the BRT line but has put that possibility on the back burner.</p><p>The initial Ashland phase, creating a 5.3-mile leg of the BRT route, would link several CTA and Metra lines. It would also improve transit service to the University of Illinois at Chicago, Malcolm X College, the United Center and a cluster of hospitals within the Illinois Medical District.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the things that all of the hospitals talk to us about is a lack of parking,&rdquo; Warren Ribley, the district&rsquo;s executive director, said at a downtown roundtable promoting the BRT project. &ldquo;They all have parking decks that are full. If you drive along Harrison or Congress on any given day, you can&rsquo;t find a parking spot.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Public transportation is critical to the growth of the medical district,&rdquo; Ribley said. &ldquo;There is going to be growth. That&rsquo;s why this is such an important proposal for us.&rdquo;</p><p>Neighborhoods along the planned initial route include Bucktown, Noble Square, East Village, West Town, University Village and Pilsen. The CTA&rsquo;s No. 9 bus, which runs on Ashland, in 2012 had 10 million boardings, the most of any Chicago route that year, according to the city.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s statement says CHA and CDOT will &ldquo;begin working with local stakeholders on developing a plan&rdquo; for Ashland.</p><p>The project&nbsp;<a href="http://docs.google.com/a/chicagopublicradio.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AluraWM750W7dHhKR25IX1RmTzFwUFJBM1lvbWQwSHc#gid=3">has potential to outshine</a> a bus line in Cleveland, Ohio,&nbsp;that transit experts consider the most advanced BRT system in the United States. The Cleveland line includes 4.3 miles of dedicated bus lanes but also some features that slow down the service. Those include tightly spaced&nbsp;stations &mdash; about four per mile&nbsp;&mdash; and&nbsp;turns across the busway.</p><p>Ashland would not stack up to BRT lines in several other countries. The world&rsquo;s&nbsp;most advanced bus system is TransMilenio in Bogotá, Colombia. That Andean city segregates&nbsp;65 miles&nbsp;of busways from traffic using physical barriers and grade separations.</p><p>Chicago has studied BRT options in the Ashland and Western corridor using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Emanuel administration estimates that the project would cost about $10 million per mile. Lukidis, the&nbsp;CTA spokeswoman, said the city would count on further FTA funding for some of the Ashland construction.</p><p>Chicago is planning another BRT project in a 1.1-mile&nbsp;downtown corridor between Union Station and Millennium Park. The project, managed by CDOT, will include a new bus terminal next to the train station. A CDOT spokesman says the city is aiming to finalize the route design this December and finish construction by November 2014. The project&rsquo;s funding includes $24.7 million from the FTA and $7.3 million in Chicago tax increment financing.</p><p>As the city unveiled the Ashland design elements, Emanuel prepared to join former President Bill Clinton at a Friday meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. Emanuel&rsquo;s office described the topic as &ldquo;innovative and cost-effective ways for cities to invest in local projects.&rdquo;</p><div><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 08:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bus-rapid-transit-%E2%80%98maximize-potential%E2%80%99-ashland-avenue-106738 Chicago planners push boldest bus-rapid-transit option http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRT_option_Western_Ashland_0.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 335px; width: 300px;" title="The BRT design favored by top Chicago staffers would preserve parking on both sides of Ashland Avenue but eliminate a traffic lane on each side. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)" />To create a state-of-the-art bus line, Chicago transit leaders and urban planners have coalesced behind a design that would limit left turns and remove a traffic lane on each side of Ashland Avenue, a busy thoroughfare that connects both upscale and low-income neighborhoods to a cluster of hospitals at the city&rsquo;s center.</p><p>Now the bus-rapid-transit plan must survive political vetting by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s office. Emanuel, a professed BRT supporter, could face a storm of criticism from business owners and motorists who want no part in one of the country&rsquo;s most ambitious bus projects. The mayor&rsquo;s office could order the preservation of all existing Ashland traffic lanes and kill plans to run the buses in lanes along the avenue&rsquo;s center &mdash; a feature vital for trimming travel times.<br /><br />Officials say the design backed by the city&rsquo;s planners would transform at least 4.5 miles of Ashland, stretching from the &ldquo;Ashland&rdquo; station of the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s Orange Line to the &ldquo;Division&rdquo; station of the CTA&rsquo;s Blue Line. That route would extend further north and south when, if ever, the city secured funding. A proposal for BRT along nearby Western Avenue would go on the back burner.<br /><br />The Ashland plan has the backing of planning and policy directors in the CTA, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren&rsquo;t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.</p><p>Some Chicago business owners along the route are already voicing worries about BRT, particularly about eliminating non-bus lanes. &ldquo;The idea of cutting the traffic capacity in half has caused a lot of questions for businesses and property owners,&rdquo; said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association.</p><p>City officials respond that their BRT plan would slow automobiles just slightly and speed up buses dramatically. The city says the new bus service would be up to 80 percent faster than today&rsquo;s service.</p><p>Other questions concern the left turns. Romanelli said business owners are wondering how limiting them &ldquo;would economically impact businesses, truck deliveries, residents moving east-west, coming from shopping.&rdquo;</p><p>City officials say they must remove some left turns to keep the buses moving fast and protect pedestrians.</p><p>Asked whether Emanuel was behind the plan and whether he would stick behind it if business owners revolted, his office had little to say. &ldquo;All of this is still under review,&rdquo; Tom Alexander, a mayoral spokesman, wrote in an email message to WBEZ.</p><p>In November, Romanelli&rsquo;s group helped form the Ashland Avenue-Western Avenue Coalition to give some area businesses a greater voice in the BRT planning. The coalition&rsquo;s other members include the Near West Side Community Development Corporation, the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce, the West Town Chamber of Commerce, and a business group called the West Central Association.</p><p>Last week coalition members met with city officials and area aldermen about the project. The officials said the city had made no final decision on the design.</p><p>The design favored by the Chicago planners resembles the boldest of four BRT alternatives the city presented last fall for the corridor. Each direction of Ashland would have one regular traffic lane and, near the middle of the avenue,&nbsp;a bus-only lane.</p><p>In each direction, the design leaves a parking lane next to the sidewalk, city officials say. There would be no bike lanes.</p><p>Several features would distinguish the project from a new express line along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard that began in November. Ashland&rsquo;s inside lanes would be dedicated to the buses around-the-clock, not just during rush hours. For quick boarding,&nbsp;the route would include station platforms and extra-wide bus doors. Those doors would be on the left side of the buses. Passengers would pay before boarding or the city would find fare-card readers that would be almost as quick.</p><p>Like the Jeffery line, the Ashland route would include traffic lights rigged to favor the buses and station enhancements such as bike racks and electronic bus-tracking signs. Like the Jeffery bus stops, the Ashland stations would be limited to roughly every half mile.</p><p>The Ashland route would include a landscaped median, according to a city staffer familiar with the plan. The CTA said last fall it had decided against narrowing the avenue&rsquo;s sidewalks.</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s No. 9 bus, which runs on Ashland Avenue, in 2011 had 10 million boardings, the second most of any Chicago route that year, according to a city web page.</p><p>An advantage of building BRT on Ashland instead of Western, city officials say, is closer proximity to the Illinois Medical District, which includes Rush University Medical Center, the University of Illinois Medical Center, the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, and Cook County&rsquo;s John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.</p><p>The city has studied the Ashland and Western options using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The city has not arranged construction funding.</p><p>A much shorter BRT line is scheduled for construction next year. That route will cross Chicago&rsquo;s Loop and include a new bus terminal at Union Station, a train depot. The project&rsquo;s funding includes $24.6 million from the FTA and $7.3 million in city tax increment financing.</p></p> Mon, 28 Jan 2013 19:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-planners-push-boldest-bus-rapid-transit-option-105187 BRT designs for Western, Ashland avenues start to take shape http://www.wbez.org/news/brt-designs-western-ashland-avenues-start-take-shape-103186 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRT_option_Western_Ashland.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 357px; width: 320px; " title="Chicago officials say they are considering this design, among others, for bus-rapid-transit routes between Howard and 95th streets. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)" />Chicago officials say they have decided to leave at least one parking lane on both possible routes of the city&rsquo;s most ambitious bus project. The officials say they have also ruled out narrowing sidewalks along those routes.</p><p>The details emerged Tuesday night at the first of three public meetings the Chicago Transit Authority is holding this week to unveil design alternatives for &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; along 21 miles of both Ashland and Western avenues.</p><p>All designs the city says it&rsquo;s considering for the corridor include around-the-clock dedicated lanes for the buses and pre-boarding fare collection. Those features would distinguish the project from an express line the city started building along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard in August. That service, called &ldquo;The Jeffrey Jump,&rdquo; is set to start early next month.</p><p>The Ashland and Western routes would also include traffic lights rigged to favor the buses and station enhancements such as bike racks and electronic bus-tracking signs.</p><p>But CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation officials say they have yet to decide on a range of features that would shave travel times for riders. Those include station platforms and buses equipped with extra-wide doors for quick boarding.</p><p>Other big questions concern whether to put the bus lanes down the middle of the avenues or along the sides, whether each side would have one non-bus travel lane or two, whether to keep parking on both sides, whether to reserve space for a landscaped median, and whether to limit left turns.</p><p>About three-dozen Chicago residents attended Tuesday&rsquo;s session, held in a Humboldt Park church. The meeting included a brief slide show by Scott Kubly, a top CDOT official. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking at what happens if we remove a travel lane and we want to hear back from you all [about] how you perceive those impacts,&rdquo; Kubly told them.</p><p>Fernando Benavides, a resident of the nearby Belmont Cragin neighborhood, said the plan to preserve at least one parking lane on each avenue was not enough. &ldquo;Elimination of lanes&nbsp;for cars and parking, my God, that&rsquo;s just going to create a lot of traffic,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Other residents voiced support for any steps to speed up transit service. New city estimates show the Ashland and Western buses averaging as fast as 16-18 miles per hour, almost rivaling CTA Red Line trains, which would average 21 miles per hour if slow zones were repaired. The BRT lines would run between Howard Street on the north and 95th Street on the south.</p><p>The other two meetings are set for Wednesday at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave., and Thursday at Lane Tech College Prep High School, 2501 W. Addison St. Both will take place at 5:30 p.m.</p><p>Officials say they will present final decisions on the design alternatives this winter. The city is studying the alternatives using a $1.6 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Construction would depend on further federal funding.</p></p> Wed, 17 Oct 2012 01:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/brt-designs-western-ashland-avenues-start-take-shape-103186 Chicago dips a toe into ‘bus rapid transit’ http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-dips-toe-%E2%80%98bus-rapid-transit%E2%80%99-101834 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Jeffery.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 327px; width: 250px; " title="Construction crews are beginning work to speed up express service along the South Side’s Jeffery Boulevard. (Photo courtesy of CTA)" />Construction crews have begun work on what Chicago is billing as its first &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; route.</p><p>The Chicago Transit Authority project, funded almost entirely by an $11 million federal grant, will speed up buses along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffery Boulevard.</p><p>The CTA says buses there will get through stop lights more quickly and have their own lanes during rush hours. The buses will also have fancy stations spaced a half-mile apart with no stops between.</p><p>Joe Iacobucci, the CTA&rsquo;s strategic-planning manager, said the crews began Monday. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re preparing those stations for new bus pads &mdash; they&rsquo;re about a 60-foot length of concrete &mdash; and preparing the landscape for customer signage and bus shelters,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The CTA expects the upgrades to shave travel times. In northbound morning peak hours, for example, Iacobucci said the project will cut 7 minutes, enabling buses to complete the 16-mile route in 65 minutes.</p><p>BRT delivers many benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. The most advanced systems are running in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, and Guangzhou, the Chinese city formerly known as Canton. More modest lines are up in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Eugene, Oregon.</p><p>Experts compare BRT systems using various criteria. The New York City-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, for example, grades systems using 30 factors.</p><p>The four factors the institute deems most important are all missing from the Jeffery Boulevard project. Those include barriers between bus and car lanes, use of the road&rsquo;s central verge for the bus lanes, off-bus fare collection and platform-level boarding.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580">BRT route downtown</a>, planned for 2014 construction, will be more robust but extend just a mile, running from Union Station to North Michigan Avenue. That project, which includes a redesign of the station, has $24.6 million in federal funding and $7.3 million in local tax-increment financing.</p><p>A third BRT route would span a 21-mile stretch of Western or Ashland avenues. The city is studying alternatives for that project using a $1.6 million federal grant.</p><p>In 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration announced that Chicago was diving into BRT with a $153 million federal grant, but the city missed a crucial application deadline and forfeited the money.</p><p>Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s mayoral transition plan last year promised a &ldquo;full bus rapid transit pilot&rdquo; within three years.</p></p> Mon, 20 Aug 2012 18:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-dips-toe-%E2%80%98bus-rapid-transit%E2%80%99-101834 $7.3 million OKed for downtown ‘bus rapid transit’ http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-21/BRT_Flickr_.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Transmilenio" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-20/Transmilenio.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 374px; height: 247px;" title="Bogotá, Colombia, has the world’s most advanced bus-rapid-transit system. (flickr/Oscar Amaya)" />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has decided to channel more than $7.3&nbsp;million in tax increment financing toward a &ldquo;bus rapid transit&rdquo; line downtown, according to transportation and economic-development officials.</p><p>The money will combine with an announced $24.6&nbsp;million from the Federal Transit Administration to speed up trips between Union Station, the Ogilvie Transportation Center, several Chicago Transit Authority lines, Streeterville and Navy Pier.</p><p>&ldquo;About 50&nbsp;percent of the commuters who come to work every day in Chicago&rsquo;s central business district arrive by bus or train,&rdquo; said Peter Skosey, vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group working on the project. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re getting off at those Metra stations in the West Loop, it&rsquo;s quite a hike over to North Michigan Avenue or even just to State Street. So this really facilitates the use of transit for downtown Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Bus rapid transit, known as BRT, delivers many benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. The most advanced BRT systems have sprung up in Bogotá, Colombia; Guangzhou, China; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ahmedabad, India.</p><p>BRT remains largely unknown in the United States. Modest systems are running in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Eugene, Oregon.</p><p>In 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s administration said it was moving on a BRT pilot project. But the city bungled an application for $153&nbsp;million in federal funding for it.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s mayoral transition plan last year promised a &ldquo;full bus rapid transit pilot&rdquo; within three years. The pilot, according to the plan, will include &ldquo;dedicated bus lanes, signal preemption, prepaid boarding or on-board fare verification, multiple entry and exits points on the buses, limited stops, and street-level boarding.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Department of Transportation is keeping lips tight about its design of the downtown line, known as both the &ldquo;East-West Transit Corridor&rdquo; and &ldquo;Central Loop BRT.&rdquo; It&rsquo;s not clear the design will include many of the timesavers listed in Emanuel&rsquo;s plan. A CDOT plan announced in 2010 would remove cars from some traffic lanes, rig key stoplights to favor the buses, improve sidewalks, install bicycle lanes and build specially branded bus stops equipped with GPS-powered &ldquo;next bus&rdquo; arrival signs.</p><p>The CTA, meanwhile, has a separate $1.6&nbsp;million federal grant to plan BRT options along a 21-mile stretch of Western Avenue. Another $11&nbsp;million from the feds is funding bus improvements this year along the South Side&rsquo;s Jeffrey Boulevard. That line, though billed as BRT, will lack many features for speeding up trips.</p></p> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 11:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/story/city-devotes-73-million-downtown-brt-96580 Lessons for Chicago from Colombian transit http://www.wbez.org/story/lessons-chicago-colombian-transit-92097 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-16/TransMilenio_Flickr_Gerard.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office this spring he laid out ambitious plans to remake public transportation in the city, including <a href="../../episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926">the promise of gold standard bus rapid transit</a> (BRT) within 3 years.</p><p>The elements that make up true BRT guarantee shorter travel times when compared even to light rail: dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid fares, platform boarding, multiple entry and exit points on busses and limited stops. Although five U.S. cities have some form of BRT, no North American city meets the gold standard. Building gold standard BRT in Chicago would put the city on the global transit map, so to speak.</p><p>The city is exploring the feasibility of establishing a 21 mile corridor on either Ashland Avenue or Western Avenue running between 95th Street and Howard, but they’ll face obstacles wherever they decide to build. Although it’s much cheaper to build BRT than rail lines ($35 million per mile of light rail versus less than $15 million per mile of BRT, according to a study from the Metropolitan Planning Council) budget constraints are making any major public works project an even bigger challenge these days.&nbsp; Municipal governments also generally encounter resistance from motorists any time lanes of traffic are taken away from cars, and from business owners who fear they’ll lose business. And in Chicago, the parking meter privatization deal struck during the Daley years necessitates keeping level the number of available parking spaces – adding one for every one they take away. With 565 metered parking spaces along Western Avenue, that could be a tall order.</p><p>Only two cities in the world have gold standard BRT – Guangzhou, China and Bogota, Colombia. Bogota’s former mayor, Enrique Peñalosa, helped develop <a href="../../episode-segments/2011-08-23/bogota%E2%80%99s-transmilenio-global-model-bus-rapid-transit-90927">his city’s TransMilenio BRT system</a> and is a recognized public transit guru who now serves as the board president of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.&nbsp;</p><p>When he came to Chicago this summer, he offered the following advice to Mayor Emanuel: If you want BRT to succeed, you need more than fast busses. You need savvy marketing, private management and good public space. Peñalosa talks tactics in the audio above.</p><p><em><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Enrique Peñalosa spoke at an event presented by the <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/index.html">Metropolitan Planning Council</a> in August. Click <a href="../../story/bus-rapid-transit-chicagos-new-route-opportunity-91762">here</a> to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Fri, 16 Sep 2011 20:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/lessons-chicago-colombian-transit-92097 Rahm vows bus rapid transit, but can he deliver? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/Transmilenio.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>All this week, WBEZ is looking at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/first-100-rahm-emanuels-first-100-days-chicago-mayor" target="_blank">Rahm Emanuel’s first 100 days as Chicago mayor</a>.</p><p>One of Emanuel’s pledges is to push for the creation of the city’s first bus-rapid-transit line. The idea behind BRT is to deliver the benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. BRT shortens travel times through dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding that’s level with station platforms, and traffic signals that favor the buses.</p><p>WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/chip-mitchell" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> gives us a progress report on Emanuel’s ambitious plan.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926