On board for Ashland bus lanes?

The two lanes along the Ashland Avenue median would become express lanes for special buses in a $160 million project to open in 2016. Ever since the CTA's April announcement, a drive along the route between Cortland and 31st streets raises questions about how the express lanes will work -- especially when traffic stops for a delivery truck, a parallel parker, a narrow underpass or a queue of turning cars.

Chris Ziemann, project manager for Chicago Bus Rapid Transit, will have some answers at the July 1 East Village Association meeting at 7 pm in the Happy Village Tavern, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.

The plan would leave one traffic lane in each direction, remove left-turn lanes and extend green lights as the new buses approach an intersection. Passengers would board on the median strip, at shelters replacing the current turn lanes. Stops would be every half-mile, including Division Street and Chicago Avenue.

Most parking and loading zones would remain. The current #9 Ashland bus would keep running, but a 2½-mile trip would be 8 minutes faster in the express lanes.

The BRT concept was first floated for Chicago Avenue five years ago. In a hearing last summer at Wells High School, a range of alternative routes had narrowed to either Ashland or Western.

Details of the new Ashland plan are posted at the CTA and Metropolitan Planning Council websites. A good starting point for tracing the BRT's background is the independent CTA Tattler blog.


  1. This plan, likely almost everything in Chicago has serious and significant flaws.
    1) First, we do not need this bus route for the betterment of business in or along the route. As stated in the CTA's proposal, this is already one of the most heavily used bus routes in the city. Therefor, this will do little to impact foot traffic or business in or along the corridor. It is already one of the heaviest pedestrian routes in the city.
    2) This will crater property values along Ashland which is likely why the route stops prior to getting North of Fullerton.
    3) By not eliminating the existing buses, and then reducing the number of available lanes, there is almost zero chance this will relieve congestion. This will become one of the most congested avenues in Chicago. (It also appears you will not be able to turn left going North or South.)
    4) I love that they have included keeping the meters for "local business." More than likely the city is keeping the meters because the have no choice due to the single most ridiculous deal the city has ever cut in its history.

    People up and down Ashland should be asking serious questions about this plan, and rallying hard to make sure it does not happen as proposed. Furthermore we should rally against alderman and actively fund candidates who oppose this idea.

  2. I am interested to learn more about BRT, as this seems to be a positive move toward connecting multiple east west corridors without going to the Loop.

    Unlike a standard bus route, BRT concentrates riders at stations every half-mile. This opens the potential for new transit-oriented development, and the economic and sustainable benefits that come with it, all along the length of Ashland.

    I have questions and maybe even some concerns about BRT, but its' impact on cars is not one of them. Chicago has no shortage of auto-friendly streets for traveling north-south; it's time to focus on the pedestrian and transit rider for a change. BRT appears to do this.

  3. The BRT plan is one of the most positive things to happen in Chicago in a long time. Every place true-BRT has been implemented, there has been prior hand-wringing about the impact on car traffic and BRT has been incredibly successful in the end.

    The knock-on positive impacts to local businesses and property values will be tremendous. Car drivers don't stop in Ashland to shop or eat. Transit users and pedestrians do. There's going to be a huge increase the productivity of businesses in the corridor.

    And because Ashland will be a much more desirable place to live and commute from, property values are going to spike within an 1/8th mile of Ashland. Right now, because Ashland is ugly and hard to walk on, many of the worst residences in the community are within a half-block of Ashland. Think of all the problem houses and empty lots near Ashland between Grand and Chicago. Once living near Ashland becomes an asset, those problem-houses will be redeveloped and empty lots will be filled with condos for people who want a five minute commute to the Medical District and West Loop.

    I was going to sell my townhouse and buy a house Logan Square or Andersonville; once the BRT was announced, I decided to wait a few years to take advantage of near-certain rapid appreciation.

    Another advantage of BRT is that the Circle Line subway may someday get built if transit ridership in the corridor hits high-enough levels. In several instances, light-rail has been converted to heavy-rail once the usage and development is there. Incremental transit usage is probably the only chance we'll ever have to eventually push for the Circle Line.


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