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.
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