Open House Lays Out Western And Ashland BRT Configuration Options

By Sam Charles | Friday, October 19, 2012

CTA representatives and other organizations stationed poster boards to help explain planned bus rapid transit routes. Credit: Sam Charles

The Chicago Transit Authority held its third and final Bus Rapid Transit informational open house in as many days to explain plans and obtain resident critique for the proposed Western and Ashland corridors plan.

The meeting, held in the Lane Tech High School cafeteria, 2501 W. Addison St., featured more than a dozen CTA representatives and other partner groups stationed next to poster boards, explaining different phases and aspects of the plan to the more than four dozen people who filtered in and out throughout the two hour meeting..

The ultimate goal of the plan is to alleviate traffic congestion and increase efficiency along two of the city’s busiest arterial streets. The Western and Ashland buses are the second- and third-busiest routes in the CTA.

For some attendees, this was the first they’d heard of the project and they reserved some skepticism concerning a few specifics.

“I didn’t know much about this at all before I came,” said Jill Niland, a resident of southeast Ravenswood. “I live just north of the area that would be affected off Ashland…but for anybody south of there, taking away parking lanes is going to then force people north to my neighborhood where we don’t have parking.”

However, the idea of reforming the transit service along Ashland and Western Aves. was a welcome idea to Niland.

“[Both streets] can be congested at times, but they’re both good streets because they’re both wide,” Niland added. “It’s a real balancing act between parking and lane placement.”

Currently, there are four potential plans that the CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation are working to flesh out through the alternatives analysis, a study funded by the Federal Transportation Administration. The four potential plans are derided from two options: To have the bus lane on the right or left side.

If the bus lane were to be on the left the two options are: Have only one lane devoted to moving traffic and the third lane, on the far right, for street parking while maintaining a median, separating north and southbound traffic. The other option is to remove the dividing median and have two lanes devoted to regular traffic with only one side of the street reserved for street parking.

If the bus lane were to be on the left, the CTA would need a new fleet of buses with doors on the left side.

If the bus lane were to be on the right side of the street, the two remaining options would be: Have the left lane be designated for regular traffic with the bus lane to right of it and on the far right be a lane for street parking, all while maintaining the dividing median. Or, the median could be stripped out and the two lanes farthest to the left would devoted to regular traffic and the bus lane be to right, while maintaining a parking lane on one side of the street.

If the bus lane were to be on the right, the buses wouldn’t be able to make left turns, potentially changing routes.

Representatives from the CTA acknowledged that all four options come with their own pros and cons, hence their asking the public for feedback.

The cost of the project is estimated at $7.4 million per mile, bringing the total to $120 million, which would not include a potentially new bus fleet.

The CTA plans to present preferred analysis options to the public between this winter and early 2013.

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