WBEZ | Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-department-housing-and-economic-development Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 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