Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chicago + BRT

Chicago has a great opportunity before it: The city stands to draw in $153 million in federal money to establish Bus Rapid Transit routes on 4 key corridors. If done right - and this is the key - this could be the beginning of great things. At less than 1/100th the cost of extending subway lines, BRT has helped increase bus usage in cities worldwide, often speeding up bus lines and drawing in new riders who leave cars behind. Definitions of BRT vary, but plans usually include: bus-dedicated lanes, curbside fare collection, (sometimes) stations available only to passengers who've paid, (sometimes) double or triple extended buses, etc. BRT projects are often branded with catchy names (the Speedy One, Viva, etc) to stand out from what are perceived as slow, clunky bus systems. Curitiba, Brazil, is the granddaddy of BRT but many cities like L.A. and Bogota are putting effective systems into place.

Will Chicago go with a pure enough BRT plan to make a big enough dent in travel times and really make a splash? If the CTA sticks with curbside stations (rather than creating a median), allows cash-paying passengers to pay on board, starts out with relatively short dedicated lanes that then mix with normal traffic, and only gives a first stab at peak hours... will the dividends pay off? That and a large investment in TSP raise doubts. But there's a committed team putting the plan together and they're now starting to roll out community meetings and are open to suggestions...

To see the presentation that CTA has put together on the corridors it will focus on initially - Halsted, 79th, Jeffery, Chicago - go here.

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