Getting around town with bus rapid transit

Getting around town with bus rapid transit

Creating bus rapid transit corridors in Chicago has been on the local transport agenda for several years now.

The Chicago Transit Authority and Department of Transportation expect to have a version of bus rapid transit in place on Jeffrey Avenue by the fall of 2012; the agencies are planning for a Western Avenue corridor now. A Loop system is in the works, and Ashland is likely to get bus rapid transit too.

Bus rapid transit, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council, must offer four elements: dedicated bus-only lanes; the ability for riders to pre-pay before they board the bus; doors that are level with the ground; and traffic signals that change to green for the buses, keeping them moving.

In August, the council released an ambitious report that envisions a network of 10 bus rapid transit streets crisscrossing the city, with stops every half-mile. The group selected its lines based on 14 factors, including the routes’ connection to job opportunities and other transit options, their potential to spur nearby development and proximity of residents.

Under the planning council’s proposal, the South Side would especially appear to benefit.

Six of their 10 proposed lines exclusively cover South and Southwest Side streets: 95th between Cicero and Jeffrey; Garfield between Western and Cottage Grove; Halsted between Vincennes and 127th; Cicero between 21st Place and 95th; Pulaski between I-55 and 99th; and a route that runs along King Drive, Cottage Grove and Stony between Cermak and 95th.

And large sections of the South Side would also be covered by the council’s two longest proposed corridors, on Ashland and Western.

Building out bus rapid transit on the South Side could ease some of the transportation challenges this part of Chicago faces. A December 2009 University of Illinois at Chicago study called “Transit Equity Matters” found that residents living in four South Side public use microdata areas–a census category that groups neighborhoods together regionally–were more likely than residents of other parts of Chicago to face a commute of more than 60 minutes to their jobs.

Bus rapid transit might also help low-income residents of the broader region access jobs, hospitals and other facilities.

According to a recent Brooking Institution report flagged by The Transport Politic website, there are nearly 400,000 households in the Chicago area that do not have a vehicle. Around 63 percent of the no-vehicle households in the region are low income, slightly worse than the national average of 60 percent.

Here is the Metropolitan Planning Council’s full list of recommended routes for bus rapid transit:

And here is a map of the planning council’s proposed routes:

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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  • Read the comments to the CTA Tattler and decide whether anything (other than Jeffery and a planning grant for Western) is fiction. It is.

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