Friday, August 26, 2011

TransMilenio – Bogotá, Colombia’s, bus rapid transit system – carries 1.4 million riders a day and has reduced travel times in Bogotá by 32 percent and emissions by 40 percent. 


Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a star among the constellation of U.S. transit options and for a host of operational, cost, and community development reasons, is worth serious consideration by the Chicago region. It takes the best of rail – speed, limited stops, dedicated right-of-way, landmark stations – and puts it on the existing street grid, radically lowering construction cost. On Wednesday, Aug. 17th, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago's New Route to Opportunity, a vision for BRT in Chicago that presents the top 10 routes in Chicago where BRT is feasible, best supports existing community assets, and fills accessibility gaps in the current transit network. 

According to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), cities are choosing BRT because it takes a relatively short time to build, is cheaper than rail, and can support an extremely flexible network, boosting connectivity. But not all BRT projects reach their maximum potential. To be truly “gold standard,” ITDP found that a system must have four key elements: 1) dedicated lanes, 2) pay-before-you-board stations, 3) level boarding, and 4) signal priority at intersections. Only two cities in the world managed to reach this gold standard: Bogotá, Colombia, and Guangzhou, China. 

To release the study, MPC held a luncheon featuring Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, who was instrumental in the development of their gold standard BRT: TransMilenio, a 52-mile system that moves about 47,000 passengers per hour/direction. Mayor Peñalosa advocated for TransMilenio because he believes that streets are a scarce, extremely valuable commodity that all people should have equal access to, regardless of if they can afford a $1 bus pass or a $50,000 car. That thinking is why converting an automobile lane to a dedicated bus lane makes sense. It’s about the number of people, not vehicles, moving through a corridor.

TransMilenio is a public-private partnership with oversight by a single public agency. The system actually pays its own operational costs through fares. It is so popular that a system expansion is already underway, which forecasts show will increase daily ridership to 2 million. Peñalosa commented that no one in Bogotá would refer to TransMilenio as “the bus.” It is a modern rapid transit system that feels more like rail.

So, could Chicago get gold standard BRT?

MPC certainly thinks so. Bus Rapid Transit: Chicago’s New Route to Opportunity integrates ITDP’s BRT research with an innovative livability screening method and ridership analysis. Answering the call from HUD, USDOT, and USEPA to integrate federal Livability Principles into development planning, MPC derived a screening process involving 14 livability metrics, and applied it on a block-by-block basis. 

Ultimately, MPC’s analysis prescribes the 10 most feasible BRT routes in Chicago, based upon scoring routes across all 14 metrics, which include such things as access to medical centers, food stores, and employment centers. The study projects a minimum 71,000 daily increase in transit trips throughout the region, with only a 1 mph decrease (16 mph from 17) in automotive traffic speeds along BRT routes.

Following the release of MPC’s report, Chicago Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) commissioner Gabe Klein commented that he was excited about BRT in Chicago. In fact, CDOT and the Chicago Transit Authority are already moving forward with an alternatives analysis on the Western and Ashland corridors, two top candidates in MPC’s BRT study. This comes as no real surprise, as Chicago’s new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, offered ample support for BRT during his recent campaign and in his transition plan.

Thus, as the stars of global research, real-world advice, and concerted collaboration align, Chicagoans appear ready to strike BRT gold!

Do you ride transit? Would you ride transit?

Active Transportation Alliance is kicking off a new project called Riders for Better Transit to represent the needs of Chicagoland transit riders like you. How would you like to see transit in our region improved? Help Riders for Better Transit achieve transit reforms that matter to riders by telling us what issues are most important to you. Take the survey at by September 30th and be entered into a raffle to receive a $100 gift card!

Local News 

An EP Perspective on Orland Park’s Proposed Downtown. Our Evergreen Parker discusses how Orland Park's proposed downtown brings up the possibility of a transit-oriented village design in Evergreen Park. 

Bad roads and bridges are costing agriculture. Illinois' aging transportation infrastructure is impacting soybean farmers' efficiency, far beyond the impact of an average pothole, according to the Illinois Soybean Association. 

Governor Quinn Announces Start of Construction on a Major Chicago Infrastructure Project. Governor Pat Quinn highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts to improve Chicago’s infrastructure and create jobs by announcing the start of construction for a major rail grade separation project on the city’s South Side. 

Sinkhole Sucks Down SUV Saturday. Crazy. One moment you’re driving down the street. The next, the asphalt below your vehicle has given way and your car plunges tires first into a huge sinkhole. 

Giveaways and free bike tuning from Levi's. Does it say something important about cycling when one of the biggest names in clothing manufacturing decides to launch cycling-specific trousers? 

RTA sues Kankakee, Channahon for $100 million ‘tax scam’. The Regional Transportation Authority is suing two cities just beyond metropolitan Chicago for $100 million, asserting that they're participating in an illegal sales-tax "scam" that hurts transit funding. 

Crowd at Illinois Tollway hearing mostly supports capital plan. The hearing on the Illinois Tollway’s 15-year, $12 billion construction plan was mostly a love fest, where the promise of jobs trumped the promise of an 87 percent increase in I-PASS tolls.

CTA cash grab—the requests. Nearly $14 million in transit funding is up for grabs—and CTA riders have a say in which projects should receive it.

National News

What Do the Earthquake, Infrastructure and Antiquated Accounting Have to Do With Jobs? What do yesterday's east coast earthquake, our infrastructure and antiquated Federal accounting systems have to do with jobs? A lot, it turns out.

In Portland, Counterposing Demands for Equity and Innovation. America’s top cycling city is gearing up for a new milestone. This week, the Portland City Council approved $2 million in funding needed to install the city’s first bike-share system.

Florida's High-Speed Rail Money Officially Sent To Northeast Corridor. Half a year after Florida Gov. Rick Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal money to help build high-speed rail structures inside his state, the cash has been sent to other portions of the country.

A Plan to Save U.S. Infrastructure That Might Actually Work. If there’s anything America has in abundance right now, it’s reports on the poor state of the country’s infrastructure. 

New consumer protections for airline passengers take effect. Yesterday, our new set of consumer protections for air passengers went into effect, which we hope will make flying more convenient and hassle-free for air travelers nationwide. 

Our crumbling infrastructure needs fixing now. -"Too Big to Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward," by Barry LePatner.

Transportation boosts U.S. July durable goods orders. New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in July on strong demand for transportation equipment, government data showed on Wednesday, but a gauge of business spending fell.

Fuel terminal boosts biofuel infrastructure in Minnesota. An obsolete 50-acre industrial site in a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb has been redeveloped into a large biofuel terminal facility set to serve the region with enhanced clean energy products.

Sources: State talking to FEC about running Tri-Rail; cutting Tri-Rail board out of talks. The state has been in secret talks to transfer the operations of the South Florida commuter rail line, Tri-Rail, to the Florida East Coast Railway, The Palm Beach Post has learned.

Earthquake shakes Pennsylvania's infrastructure; Safety checks underway. All of that shaking from yesterday's 5.8 magnitude earthquake is causing some concern about Pennsylvania's inner workings. 

Interview with Donald Shoup: Los Angeles Making Strides with ExpressPark. Last week we had a chance to talk with UCLA Professor and renowned Parking Rock Star Donald Shoup about Los Angeles’ ExpressPark system coming to the Downtown soon. 


New Report: There Are Now 1 Billion Cars on the Road. A year ago yesterday an unfortunate line of drivers in China spent their ninth straight day stuck in traffic. If the country keeps adding cars to its roads the way it did in 2010, that type of congestion might seem light.

Your ideal transit system: London Transit responds. We asked Londoners what they would like to see in their ideal transit system. We sent some of those ideas to the London Transit Commission to get their thoughts. Responses are courtesy of Larry Ducharme, general manager of the LTC. 

POINT OF VIEW/Satoshi Shimizu: India needs a faster pace of infrastructure development. India needs to pick up the pace of its infrastructure development. Several obstructing factors can be identified, including the poor provision of financing. 

GVK ups stake in Bangalore airport with $135m deal. Despite the global financial turmoil, Indian companies are convinced that their domestic infrastructure sector story remains a good bet.

Distorted Maps Visualize Congestion and Pollution. Xiaoji Chen, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created isochronic maps of Paris and Singapore that represent distance on a map proportionally to travel time.

Aerospace firms likely to weather market turbulence: Analysts say stock-price declines related to broader sell-off during last two months. Montreal aerospace firms' stock prices have been taking a pounding in the last two months, since the end of the Paris air show.

India’s fast-growing economy stuck in decrepit infrastructure. Manufacturing in India is exploding, but freight trucks average 19 mph on potholed roads.

Rubavu flights now daily from Kigali. In an ongoing effort to make domestic flights in Rwanda more popular, RwandAir has commenced daily flights between Kigali’s Kanombe International Airport and the municipality of Rubavu.

St. Kitts ready for cruise tourism boom. Senator Ricky Skerritt, Minister of Tourism & International Transport, has announced that cruise visitor arrivals to St. Kitts are expected to increase by more than 20 percent in the upcoming October 2011 - September 2012 cruise ship season.

Emirates fleet more efficient than global airline average. The Emirates Group today announced the release of its first comprehensive environmental report, a study that revealed the airline’s carbon dioxide emissions efficiency was 26% better than the global airline average.

Equatorial Guinea Excels in Infrastructure Development. Equatorial Guinea President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo continues to invest substantially in infrastructure projects, including highways, electricity networks and schools, throughout the country.

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