Bus rapid transit speeds into fast lane with CTA board OK today

Construction on the CTA's first bus rapid transit (BRT) project will begin in spring of 2012 along Jeffery Street Boulevard between 67th and 103rd streets after the agency's board on Wednesday gave it the go-ahead.

The CTA board approved a joint agreement with the Chicago Department of transportation to work cooperatively on the project. BRT is a special form of bus service that is aimed at providing faster, more efficient, and more reliable service than an ordinary bus line. Two common features of BRT are dedicated bus lanes and transit signal prioritization.

CDOT will be responsible for construction and street improvements along the Jeffery corridor. According to a CTA press release, "those items include information kiosks and street furniture such as landscaping and bike racks. Construction will include street, sidewalk, lighting and signal improvements, pavement markings and signage, customer boarding areas, ADA ramps, and the installation of software to time signal prioritization."

More project details from the release:

The agencies will collaborate on construction, operation and maintenance elements of the Jeffery BRT project. The CTA and CDOT will develop jointly all plans and specifications necessary for the project. The CTA will also purchase an interior bus LCD screen displaying real-time travel information, and upgrade the exterior appearance of the buses by introducing new designs, colors and lighting features to existing CTA vehicles.

Jeffery BRT is funded by an $11 million Federal Bus and Bus Facilities Livability Grant which was awarded to the CTA in 2010. The grant money covers the expenses of all project phases including the procurement, construction and maintenance items outlined in the CTA and CDOT agreement.

A second contract was also approved allowing the CTA to move forward with planning for BRT along the Western Corridor which includes Western and Ashland Avenues between Howard and 95th streets. After a competitive bidding process, the Chicago Transit Board approved a contract with Camp Dresser & McKee in the amount of $1.6 million. The entire contract amount is funded by a Federal Transit Administration grant previously awarded to the CTA.

The CTA board will meet again next Tuesday, Nov. 15, to consider and no doubt approve the 2012 budget presented last month by CTA President Forrest Claypool. The big unknown in that budget is whether the unions will agree to at least $80 million in work rule changes so the CTA can avoid fare hikes and/or service cuts.


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    Just in time for the Dan Ryan reconstruction project. Wonder if people east of the Dan Ryan will all migrate to the BRT when it is up and running.

  • It is Jeffery Boulevard. Especially since Jeffery was always a boulevard route bus.

    Since the grants were previously announced, the only news in the news release is that the intragovernmental agreement for CDOT to do the work was approved for Jeffery, and some consultant got a contract for Western and Ashland. And, no it wasn't Western Ct. or Ashland Plaisance.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks for the help Jack. I couldn't find an immediate source, so I said to myself: "I'll just put in Street and Jack will correct me."

  • I go down Jeffery from Jackson Park to South Chicago Ave. several times a year. I fail to see how rapid this can be as Jeffery is just one lane in each direction.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Since they said it was BRT Lite, probably won't be any more rapid. The Display indicates a dedicated bus lane in the rush direction, maybe better access to the bus stops, and maybe 5 minutes off the trip. You wonder if the police tow is going to keep the curb lane clear. Maybe from the ticket revenue, yes.

    Basically, the only operational change is that instead of stopping at only odd numbered streets, it will stop only at 1/4 mile streets.

  • $11 million to cut 5 minutes!
    Put that money towards fixing the Red Line & knock 10 minutes off of tens of thousands of commuter's time each day!

    On Western, it can make a real difference, the street has two lanes in each direction, except for the grade at Belmont.
    But the bridge over Belmont is supposed to be removed next year, so that will then work out.

  • "$11 million to cut 5 minutes!"

    That's stimulus and discretionary grants for you, given that Congress can't pass a coherent transportation bill. Ask for something and ye shall get, like $1 million to test two electric buses, instead of a plan to bring the system into a state of good repair.

    At least for the $11 million, someone is getting some pavement markings, street furniture, and a BusTracker sign in the bus.

    For $11 million on the Red Line you get the Loyola station improvements, and it isn't going to make much of a dent in the minimum $1 billion needed to get it repaired.

    On the other hand, for the Western corridor study, all we are getting is a consultant to probably say to reinstate what we had two years ago, or implement a plan they had for Western 9 years ago. That hits me as the bigger waste, as the press release points out no construction until 2015.

    BTW, no one, but me just now, caught my error that it would be stops on 1/2 mile streets.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, not only are you great at correcting MY errors, you're great at correcting your OWN errors. You're just all-around GREAT! ;-)

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    As Anonymous would tell you, that's my job, except I don't get paid for it here. And when I found out it was futile on Wikipedia, I gave up.

    At least chicagobus.org has an "edit" button, something Greenfield still hasn't deigned to provide here.

  • In reply to jack:

    Oh no, I caught the mistake, I just didn't bother to correct it.

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    In reply to jack:

    "On the other hand, for the Western corridor study, all we are getting is a consultant to probably say to reinstate what we had two years ago, or implement a plan they had for Western 9 years ago. That hits me as the bigger waste, as the press release points out no construction until 2015."

    Wonder if this guy pays people to decide for him what to wear everyday.... Come on now some of this stuff shouldn't be too compicated to the point where you have to PAY someone to think every move for you.

  • In reply to Sam92:

    I'm not sure who you mean as "that guy."

    Also, to make it clear, my complaint here is with the feds, not the CTA, and is related to my point above about categorical grants.

    The Western one was clearly a federal grant, and it appears that there are federal grants involved with the RPM study. The rationale for both is "funding has not been identified, but federal legislation seems to require these studies."

    I the meantime, the federal transportation reauthorization bill is in limbo (see Publius and my comments there).

    In the meantime, CTA documents indicate that the Red Line AA process started in 2007 [http://www.transitchicago.com/news_initiatives/planning/Redextend.aspx] and 4 years later we are just getting into the environmental review process. The oldest one is the Circle Line going back to 2006.The best that can be said is that 3 of the 4 projects are comatose. At least Scott Walker put the KRM New Start out of its misery.

    So, whatever the President says about the bridge in Covington, Ky., it does not appear that the transportation bills are anything more than a consultant relief act.

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    In reply to jack:

    Yeah I see now. Forgot they were going for the grant money on that also.

  • Call me stupid, but I don't get what the essential difference is between Bus Rapid Transit and having buses run express on a route.

  • In reply to Pollyanna:

    In the real world, BRT runs on a dedicated right of way and has stations, and usually has BRT style buses (more streamlined, with more doors, and, for some unknown reason, fender covers). Look up something like the Cleveland Health Line. However, in Chicago, any place that has a dedicated right of way is usually served by Rapid Transit or Metra.

    Claypool has said that for $11 million, all Jeffery is getting is BRT Lite,* and you can look at my reply to Scooter to see what it is and that it isn't much.

    What is being implemented on Jeffery may be comparable to the NYC Select Bus Service, but again done far more on the cheap. The NY SBS, again, did replace express buses on arterial streets.

    Pace, while not having implemented anything yet, refers to their plan for Milwaukee Ave. as ART, or Arterial Rapid Transit. Probably will be similar to Jeffery. As CTA relies on the 15 for local passenger traffic, Pace's plans rely on the Niles Free Bus.

    *BRT Lite reminds me, for some reason, of the comparison of Miller Lite to water.

  • In reply to jack:

    What I would prefer they do with this money is implement signal priority for buses. My first candidate for signal priority in Chicago would be for the EB 155 as it turns north onto Sheridan & then waits 3-5 minutes for the light to change at the Sheridan Rd. cutoff!
    I've ridden the Orange Line buses in LA, they run almost all of the way from North Hollywood to Warner Center on an abandoned railroad right of way & can turn the lights green when they get to them. Just the last half mile or so is on city streets in the San Fernando Valley.
    Sometime next year, the Orange Line will be extended north to Chatsworth, at the far NW corner of The Valley & again, it will run on another abandoned rail right of way. It's currently under construction.
    Chicago does have abandoned rail lines, but they don't really go anywhere [the Evanston/Mayfair cutoff for example] or in many cases, they're parallel & adjacent to lines still in use. In LA, almost all have just grade crossings, while here, many are grade separated & no one wants to use the century old bridges for buses, so the cost is simply too great.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    What you are missing, but Sam apparently picked up is the point that these are not formula funds, but grants for particular purposes. Get it now?

    Write Congress and tell them to drop these insane discretionary grant programs and fund the formula.

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    I'm guessing 103rd is going to gain it's 6 artics in the Spring to begin upgrades to them? It looks like 4107-4109 and 4056-4058 are the ones that would get sent there since their stickers were never changed.

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