And we knew that. But it's a start.
President Forrest Claypool told CTA Tattler more than a year ago he is hopeful that what the CTA learns from “BRT light on Jeffery" (his words) will inform the future. “True full-blown BRT could happen on Western," Claypool added in the July 2011 interview. "It offers the best opportunity and connects all our rail station. That’s the beauty of it. It would be like the Circle Line – all those stations will be connected more cheaply. And, if done properly, it should enhance the residential and commercial property values.”
Claypool acknowledges that the upcoming Jeffery service, with a budget of just $11 million, isn’t the full package. “I don’t even like to call it BRT,” he says. “It is a first stage, faster, and hopefully more convenient service for riders.” That service will incorporate some elements of BRT, Claypool says, mentioning jump queues at lights that allow buses to get a head start on cars, dedicated bus lanes, fewer stops and elaborated street furniture and shelters.
What the Jeffrey project won’t include is raised platforms for level boarding, pre-paid fares, and multiple entry doors, all of which help eliminate the dreadful wait as passengers shuffle through the front door of a typical bus.
The big barrier, Claypool say, is the expense. “You could spend a fortune on the gold standard of BRT like they have in Bogotá (Colombia), but if you could deliver 90 percent of the benefits of that type of service at a fraction of the cost, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you do it at more locations because you’ve stretched the dollars?”
That sounds like we could see several variations on faster bus services, starting later this year. “There is no one size fits all. Maybe some types of Bus Rapid Transit might be appropriate for downtown, but not for Western Avenue. We will learn a lot from (the Jeffery Corridor) this fall, and those lessons will be incorporated into our plans for Western and downtown.”
The CTA promised to share a draft plan for the Western BRT project from the June open house this fall. Then the funding needs to be secured and the project built. And Chicago may finally have BRT that might actually be rapid.