MPC applauds Chicago's Bus Rapid Transit plans for Ashland Avenue - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC applauds Chicago's Bus Rapid Transit plans for Ashland Avenue

The Chicago Dept. of Transportation and Chicago Transit Authority announced on April 19 their vision for center-running Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service on Ashland Avenue, with the first phase of implementation planned between Cortland and 31st streets.

“Bus Rapid Transit is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to expand and modernize our city’s transit network for the 21st century,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in the statement. “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.”

MPC joined with Active Transportation Alliance and local leaders to praise the plan in a media statement "as an important milestone in Chicago’s BRT vision that balances the needs of all street users, improves quality of life in local neighborhoods, provides better access to jobs and services, and makes local streets more attractive, safer and less congested." Both organizations have been dedicated to bringing world-class BRT to Chicago, and are among a growing list of civic, business and community leaders lining up to support the city's plans.

The five-mile route between Cortland and 31st streets is part of the City’s broader vision for BRT to span Ashland Avenue between Irving Park Rd. and 95th Street. The first phase will help connect transit riders to the Clybourn Metra Station and the Blue and Orange lines, and make taking transit in the corridor faster, more reliable, and more like taking the train. While regular buses average 8.7 miles per hour on Ashland, the BRT plan includes center-running bus-only lanes, full-service transit stations and high-tech traffic signals that could make the BRT service nearly as fast as the Red Line while largely avoiding street congestion.

To learn more about the planned Ashland route, visit CTA's web site.

MPC has long supported BRT as a cost-effective way to improve transit service for neighborhoods across the city. This is particularly true on the Western/Ashland corridor, where three in 10 workers take transit to work, and one in four households don’t have a car.

MPC also is continuing to explore the potential for and encourage the city to leverage the investment in BRT as a catalyst for economic development.

“Bus Rapid Transit will make transit service along Ashland faster and more reliable, which is a critical need for residents, businesses and institutions, such as hospitals and community centers,” said Peter Skosey, Executive Vice President, Metropolitan Planning Council. “Bus Rapid Transit also will help improve connections between existing transit stops along the route, helping people access more opportunities across the city, and has great potential to spark new development near stations.”

The plan has strong support among the public. In fall 2012, more than 1,300 Chicagoans signed an Active Transportation Alliance petition asking city officials to include bus-only lanes and pedestrian-friendly streets as part of plans for world-class BRT on Western and/or Ashland avenues. 

"By reinventing the bus and rethinking our streets, BRT can bring dramatic improvements to public transit," said Ron Burke, Executive Director, Active Transportation Alliance. “BRT is an incredible opportunity to provide the kind of transportation options that Chicagoans need.” 

Community and business leaders are also lining up in support of BRT.

“Bus Rapid Transit is an exciting investment that will connect residents and businesses in Pilsen and other neighborhoods to jobs while improving our quality of life,” said Maria Saldana, Chief Operating Officer, The Resurrection Project. “Improved public transportation is also an important asset that will help stabilize the housing markets in our communities.”

“Bus Rapid Transit service on Ashland will improve connections between the four neighborhoods surrounding the University of Illinois-Chicago–Little Italy, University Village and Commons, Roosevelt Square and Brooks Homes, and Tri-Taylor –as well as to the rest of the neighborhoods along the route,” said Dennis O’Neill, Executive Director, Connecting4Communities. “Neighborhoods that are well connected to the fabric of our city are more apt to thrive, economically and socially.”

The next step for BRT on Ashland Avenue is the engineering and environmental design phase, through which the route and configuration will be comprehensively analyzed on a block-by-block basis. Thousands of hours of additional analysis will be performed throughout 2013 to formulate the final design, and public feedback will be sought along the way, including this spring and summer. To stay informed, visit CTA's web page, “How to Stay Involved,” and sign up for the BRTChicago e-newsletter.

The Ashland announcement received a lot of press coverage. Here is a (nearly) exhaustive list of local, regional, and national sources:

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