Ashland Avenue is a great choice for installing a full-blown bus rapid transit (BRT) route in Chicago. The CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation - along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel - announced Friday that Ashland was chosen over Western Avenue.
The key component of the Ashland Avenue BRT route is a dedicated center bus lane in each direction with stops every half-mile. Bus will speed along Ashland aided by traffic signals programmed to give them priority. The first phase will be built between Cortland (just north of North Avenue) and 31st Street. This phase will cost about $116 million, not including the purchase of special buses. Service is expected to start no later than early 2016.
The #9 Ashland bus had 10.2 million total rides last year, 1 million more than the #49 Western, and serves the bustling medical district around Polk Street. Plus, the new BRT route would connect with seven CTA ‘L’ stations, two Metra stations, and 37 bus routes, and provide a "much-needed north-south transit connection outside of the downtown area," says the CTA.
The Ashland corridor provides access to nearly 133,800 jobs, including large employment centers such as the Illinois Medical District, and serves popular destinations like UIC, Malcolm X College, and the United Center. There are also 99 schools within walking distance of the proposed Ashland BRT.
“One in four households within walking distance of Ashland Avenue currently do not have a car,” said Metropolitan Planning Council Executive Vice President Peter Skosey. “By implementing BRT, a community that is not served well by the rail system will have better access to jobs and connectivity to the overall transit system.”
Here are other features of BRT on Ashland, according to the CTA:
- Potential pre-payment for faster boarding, similar to ‘L’ stations.
- Wide doors on left side of new, high-capacity vehicles.
- Improved lighting, ADA ramps and real-time travel info.
- More than 75 blocks of new streetscaping, including medians and sidewalks.
- Parking and loading zones retained on both sides of the street.
- One vehicle travel lane eliminated in each direction.
- Left-hand turn lanes removed.
Also to accommodate BRT, the following adjustments would occur:
- Elimination of two vehicle lanes (one lane in each direction), typically leaving one travel lane in each direction.
- Small reduction in parking (92% retained) and loading zones (96% retained).
- Removal of left turns.
Check out the CTA video explaining the elements of bus rapid transit.