CTA to try, try again on bus rapid transit funding

After missing an application deadline more than a year ago due to city hall screwups, the CTA has again applied for $150 million in federal funds for a bus rapid transit pilot project, Crain’s is reporting:

Under the grant request, express buses that stop only every half-mile or so would get exclusive use of one lane each way on four streets, at least during rush hours. Patrons would pre-pay at the bus stops, with rear-door boarding and special buses to speed service.

The thoroughfares involved are 79th Street, from Ford City to South Shore Drive; Chicago Avenue from Austin Boulevard to Navy Pier; Halsted Street from Waveland/Broadway to 79th Street, and Jeffery Boulevard from 103rd Street/Stony Island to Jefferson/Washington.

The CTA was so confident of getting this funding that in April of 2008 they said the deal was done.
At least Mayor Daley was able to convince Bush officials late in 2008 to hold over the grant money till Obama took office. And those funds still haven’t been awarded. So there’s still hope. Though well over 50 commenters at my old site wished it were dead.


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  • In a practical sense, this is now a bigger joke, given that the X routes were canceled (except for X28).*

    I still wonder how they are going to keep passengers in a "paid area" at 87th and Jeffery, a good target range for a drive by shooter.

    I had previously raised the type of objection you did not note from the Crain's piece:

    Mr. Fish said it is possible that the CTA initially could change the initial four streets. At least one of the corridors, North Halsted Street, has only one lane of traffic in each direction along much of its length -- meaning that all parking on the street likely would have to be banned, at least at some times.

    The way I then put it was "do they really intend to shut down business in Greektown?"

    Also, you did not note the reason why the last grant didn't go through:
    But the deal fell apart after the city failed to pass needed legislation to raise downtown parking rates as a means to "encourage" drivers to switch to public transit.

    With business down downtown, do you think the City Council is going to leap at the chance to raise parking taxes again?

    Finally, the real kicker:

    Paul Fish, the CTA's vice president for budget and capital finance, said the CTA applied again after being routinely notified of a new "livability" program.

    One reliable Washington source says the program still has yet to be approved by Congress, so the CTA's prospects of actually getting the grant are far from certain.

    So, this seems about as likely as the Pace TIGGER grant for 10 hybrid 30 foot buses, and TIGER grant to convert a lane of the Tollway into a bus lane and run plastic Hungarian buses on it. At least DOT had the good sense to turn those down, under programs that did exist under ARRA. But, I suppose the CTA can justify this proposal by saying someone at 121 N. LaSalle Street, 5th floor, has more clout than someone in Arlington Heights.

    On the other hand, I'm surprised that New Flyer didn't put a release that it already got the bus build contract, sort of like it did when it announced that CTA had exercised 58 options--about 6 months before ARRA, when CTA actually did.

    *BTW, the proposed express zones of 2 of the 4 routes are outside the south side, and another one replaces a south side express route, so someone will sue on the basis that this, like the termination of the X routes, is inherently racist, because, it is, take their word for it.

  • "In a practical sense, this is now a bigger joke, given that the X routes were canceled."

    Amen! I tried really hard to keep an open mind about the elimination of my beloved X49. After 6+ weeks of taking the local, all I can say is that it sucks more often than it doesn't. I'll help write a grant to get the express service restored. Hell, I hold a bake sale.

    Regardless, Chicago is not going to have true Bus Rapid Transit even if it does manage to get the federal grant this time around. There won't be secure median boarding kiosks, dedicated bus lanes or automatic traffic signal right-of-way, all of which are necessary to have truly efficient BRT service.

    I was in Cleveland last summer and rode their BRT line out to the art museum. It runs down Euclid Ave, which is a very wide street. Even with the dedicated bus lane, there was still room for a traffic lane and a left turn lane. There were enclosed boarding kiosks in the median and traffic signals changed for the bus. This was obviously a very coordinated effort between Cleveland, the Feds and the Cleveland Clinic and other hospitals the route serves. I can't imagine anything on this scale ever happening in Chicago. The idea of BRT on Halsted street would be hilarious if it weren't pitiful.

    Stony Island would be perfect for BRT and would serve an area that's woefully lacking in transit. If there's flexibility in the grant, which there probably isn't, CTA should put their effort into creating a line there, get it right and then see if it's worthwhile to expand.

  • In reply to marthat3:

    If the extremely hypothetical grant is hypothetically flexible, it would make more sense to use it to put actual BRT on, as you suggest, Western, and Ashland. I agree with your point that BRT would not be BRT on any of the 4 streets previously suggested.

    I also remember back about 7 or 8 years, when Western was supposed have stuff like the Compobuses, dedicated street furniture, and the like, to make it BRT-like. Those plans fell apart quickly, and, as you mention, we're back to the local bus.

    While Stony Island is wide enough, I doubt that it is "woefully deprived of transit," as it has the 28 and X28.

    In that people can take the L or the 14 bus to get downtown, I don't see the downtown rationale for the former BRT project, either. It just seemed like a way to get some of the money that New York City forfeited by not implementing congestion pricing.

  • In reply to marthat3:

    Express Halsted bus - yes please!

  • In reply to marthat3:

    I agree with the concerns about Halsted, that it's too narrow for a good version of BRT. Where ever the it's put it's got to be done right and work well as it's going to be the example for the future of BRT in the area. A bad version with slow the acceptance of the idea.

    I like Western myself, even though it's not one that I would use. Again done right, dedicated lanes, centerline stations and stoplight control, Western would be a great connector BRT line between the el lines. If it went east on Howard and then east again somewhere far south it becomes an ring connector. Cicero is likely another possibility.

    I wrote my own blog entry for a possible BRT using Peterson and Cicero to Jeferson Park for folks that would like to use transit to get to the north side and Evanston from/to OHare.

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