“Bus Rapid Transit presents an incredible opportunity to strengthen our neighborhoods by moving people faster and more conveniently than most people image riding a bus can be,” says Ron Burke, Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans), which organizes the Riders for Better Transit initiative.
The CTA will pilot elements of BRT with its new Jeffery Jump service starting this fall, but transit riders and advocates are asking to take the concept further on Western and Ashland Avenues, where the city is currently considering a 21-mile BRT corridor. The plan could create a world-class BRT system with bus-only lanes, new transit stations and high-tech traffic signals.
CTA and CDOT will host their second round of public meetings about BRT on Western and Ashland on Oct. 16, 17 and 18, where people can provide feedback on several design proposals for bus-only lanes. Meeting details can be found at http://www.transitchicago.com/
Active Trans strongly encourages transit riders to attend and offer comments supporting bus-only lanes. Two important lessons from successful BRT systems in other cities to keep in mind include:
- Bus-only lanes in the center of the street provide better transit than curbside lanes.Placing bus lanes in the center of the street helps to reduce conflicts with existing local bus routes, cars parking and turning, and other vehicles that may end up obstructing a lane near the curb. It significantly reduces the chances that the bus lane will be blocked and therefore makes everyone’s transit trip both faster and more reliable.
- Wide sidewalks and on-street parking should be maintained. The new bus lanes could be created by taking a combination of car travel lanes, parking lanes, and/or sidewalk and median space. Rather than narrowing sidewalks or removing parking, Active Trans supports reprioritizing how we use the existing traffic lanes. Placing bus lanes in current car travel lanes preserves quality public space on our sidewalks that growing business districts can use for sidewalk seating. Replacing parking lanes with bus lanes would create six lanes of fast-moving traffic where there’s now only four. This will feel significantly less comfortable for people walking, especially if cars or buses are speeding by right against the sidewalk. On-street parking not only provides access to local businesses, but also provides a barrier between pedestrians and traffic that can make a street feel safer. Active Trans believes replacing car lanes will have a minimal impact on car travel speeds, and considering Chicago’s notorious congestion problem, it is essential that we provide better public transit options.