Bus Rapid Transit is better rapid transit - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Bus Rapid Transit is better rapid transit

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority

Cleveland’s Rapid Transit Vehicle (RTV) is a combination of the best elements of the train and bus that boasts a sleek design and high energy efficiency.

Last week we celebrated the opening of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s newest exhibit: Bus Rapid Transit: Next Stop, Chicago. More than 150 people joined transportation leaders from across the country to learn about the positive effects that other cities, such as Cleveland and New York, have experienced through the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Forrest Claypool, president of Chicago Transit Authority; Joseph Calabrese, chief executive officer and general manager of the Greater Cleveland RTA; Ted Orosz, director of long range bus planning, MTA New York City Transit; Michael Schwartz, transportation planner, San Francisco County Transportation Authority; and Gabe Klein, commissioner of the Chicago Dept. of Transportation, came together to share successes, lessons learned, and current plans for BRT in their respective cities. Metropolitan Planning Council’s Peter Skosey moderated the discussion. The speakers’ presentations were full of good things to think about as we prepare for BRT in Chicago. Key takeaways include:

Plan for livability and connectivity to spur community and economic development. Since Cleveland implemented BRT (known there as the Health Line), the city has improved connectivity between destinations such as major employers, universities, hotels and medical institutions. Beyond enhancing and improving commuters’ experience, the Health Line is credited with spurring $4.3 billion in investment along the corridor.

Use modern design to emphasize system reliability and efficiency. Cleveland’s system is branded as Better Rapid Transit and prioritizes permanence, image, and level of service, while maintaining the most desirable characteristics of a bus – flexibility and lower costs. Cleveland’s Rapid Transit Vehicle (RTV) is a combination of the best elements of the train and bus that boasts a sleek design and high energy efficiency. Not only is the Health Line a better way to commute, but shorter travel times and hybrid technology used in the design of the RTV have prompted more people to leave their cars at home and opt for BRT – a win-win for commuters and the environment. In New York, transportation authorities realized a 36 percent increase in ridership from the former Limited Service Bus and an additional 5,000 new riders per day. 

Aim for Complete Streets. New York City has experienced similar successes in the city’s initial implementation of BRT – known as Select Bus Service (SBS). Following a Complete Streets model, the M15 corridor on First and Second avenues was upgraded to include protected bike lanes, designated bus lanes, tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks and parking.

Develop short implementation timeframes. Orosz stressed that short implementation timeframes, good design, community engagement, and business support were key to the successful implementation of New York City’s BRT system. Encouraged by such positive results, authorities are planning to implement BRT in four more corridors throughout the city.

Engage the community. Help the community learn about BRT plans on the Western Corridor and how various neighborhoods may benefit. To that end, CTA and CDOT are hosting three BRT public meetings this week along Ashland and Western Avenues:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
7th District Police Station
1438 W. 63rd St.
Chicago

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 p.m
Lane Tech College Prep High School
2501 W. Addison St.
Chicago

Thursday, June 14, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Wells Community Academy High School
936 N. Ashland Ave.

With these tips top of mind, it’s likely Chicago will benefit from BRT. We already know we need additional transit options: In a recent traffic study, the CTA and CDOT found that while 47 percent of the people traveling are using the bus, busses make up only 4 percent of the vehicles on the road. Meanwhile, 37 percent of people are traveling by car and trucks, but these make up 64 percent of the vehicles on the road. These statistics prove that we need to prioritize vehicles that move more people more efficiently and BRT can help us get there.

As we learned last week, by using modern design, emphasizing system reliability and efficiency, developing short implementation timeframes, and engaging the community, Chicago will, too, realize the improved livability, connectivity and community development that we have seen in Cleveland and New York.

Visit Chicago Architecture Foundation’s exhibit, Bus Rapid Transit: Next Stop, Chicago at 224 South Michigan Avenue. It will be on display through August 2012. Free admission. 

Visit brtchicago.com, Chicago's official web site on BRT, to learn more about this exciting new transportation option.

Follow this link to see the presentation from the panel discussion.

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