Move That Bus: Planning Council Promotes Bus Rapid Transit

By Patty Wetli | Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MPC rendering of Western Avenue after development of BRT corridor.

Oh the irony of the term Bus Rapid Transit, given how long it might take to move this concept from idea to reality in Chicago. But BRT just gained some much needed traction with an endorsement from the Metropolitan Planning Council, which included BRT among the organization’s policy initiatives for 2012.

MPC, an independent non-profit that develops and promotes solutions for regional growth, has pledged to work with the city, CTA and other stakeholders to advance potential routes. Following an exhaustive study, MPC identified 10 priority routes, including a more than 20-mile stretch of Western Avenue, running from Howard Street to West 95th Street.

With benefits such as expanded transportation choice and improved transit times for commuters, BRT has proven a popular choice among urban planners in Las Vegas, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, where BRT systems boast features like dedicated lanes, signal prioritization, and pay-before-you-board stations. Whereas the cost to build new heavy rail transit systems can run upwards of $100 million per mile, Vegas built its BRT for a mere $2.7 mllion per mile.

Since introducing its line in 2008, Cleveland has seen travel times improve 25 percent and ridership increase 47 percent. MPC’s models suggest that BRT corridors could encourage as many as 7,000 drivers to ditch their cars and jump on board the bus bandwagon.

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  • Anonymous

    “MPC’s models suggest that BRT corridors could encourage as many as 7,000 drivers to ditch their cars and jump on board the bus bandwagon.”Let’s just say that *all* 7,000 of those cars are taken out of the traffic equation between the River and Irving Park Road (which we know won’t be the case).  Per this (WARNING: Large pdf file) http://ward32.org/wp-content/uploads/public/Western_7.7.10_Documents.pdf  that would reduce traffic count by less than 20%, while reducing capacity by *over* (because of the disappearance of some left turn lanes) 50%.  What will that equal?   TOTAL gridlock.

    Regarding Cleveland’s (apparently successful) BRT, please note that for the majority of the route, there are parallel major arterial streets one block north AND one block south. There is no reasonable alternative to Western for car traffic through MOST of the length of Western Avenue, and this is especially true through North Center and Lincoln Square.

    I am *hugely* in support of improved public transit options, but also recognize that dramatically reducing the capacity of our relatively few, already near capacity, major arterials will have *massive* negative effects.

  • http://spudart.org spudart

    I highly applaud the idea that Western Avenue (a major street two blocks from me) might get a dedicated rapid transit lane. As a non-car owner this is my dream.

  • Anonymous

    I must second cjlane concerns about traffic conjestion if a BRT project is completed.  A BRT would create significant problems on Western, and even worse problems on Ashland, which is already conjested most of the day.  It may save minimal time for 7000 bus riders a day, but it will cause new delays for tens of thousands of drivers.  Cjlane is right — even people driving on the side streets will be impacted.  As an environmental professional, I really question the alleged benefits of this projects.  It may take some drivers off the street, but the new conjestion will cause significant new emissions, particularly in the 2-3 blocks east of the new BRT route.  Over all a bad idea — the Mayor needs to start listening to residents and stop pandering to the environmental NGOs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shawncle Shawn Tumanov

    Why are we comparing Chicago to Vegas or Cleveland… Should we not be comparing us to.. Toronto? Paris? Berlin? Tokyo? or another major world city?

  • http://twitter.com/shmooth2 Peter Smith

    what is that little green stripe on the side of the road?

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