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CTA ‘Bus Rapid Transit’ lanes could come to Ashland and Western

Jeffery Boulevard with Bus Rapid Transit lanes. |CDOT

Jeffery Boulevard with Bus Rapid Transit lanes. |CDOT

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Updated: October 15, 2012 10:01PM

CTA buses along much of Ashland and Western Avenues would get their own full-time bus lanes under a plan that’s still on the drawing board.

The plan — known as bus rapid transit (BRT) — has no timetable or financing. But if it’s implemented, officials hope the plan would bring the 15 to 40 percent decrease in travel time seen in similar projects around the country.

The proposed 16-mile corridors would extend from Irving Park on the north to 95th Street on the south on Ashland and from Berwyn on the north to 79th Street on the south on Western..

Traffic signals will be adjusted to give the buses priority at clogged intersections along Western and Ashland, said Brian Steele, a Chicago Transportation Department spokesman.

The traffic light technology will be tested when the CTA launches a scaled down pilot program before year’s end along Jeffrey between 67th and 83rd Streets on the No. 14 Jeffrey Express.

But, unlike the 24-hour bus-only lanes envisioned by CTA officials, the Jeffrey route will feature such lanes only during rush hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) on weekdays. And the Jeffrey lanes will be along the curb. Designers are still deciding if curbside lanes or center lanes would be best for Ashland and Western.

Officials also plan a complete makeover for bus stops — which would bear more resemblance to CTA train platforms and allow riders to step off the bus onto a level surface, according to Steele.

The CTA received an $11 million federal grant to implement the Jeffrey pilot project. The agency also received $1.6 million in federal funds to study creating the lanes on Ashland and Western, and hope to finalize designs next year. But money for construction is still needed.

Ashland and Western have the second and third highest bus ridership respectively in Chicago. The extra width of both streets make them good candidates for bus rapid transit, and they both also intersect with most CTA lines and multiple Metra lines, said Steele.

The CTA will host three open houses this week to discuss the plan:

From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Iglesia Rebano Church, 2435 W. Division St. From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lindblom Math & Science Academy, 6130 S. Wolcott Ave. And from From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Lane Tech College Prep, 2501 W. Addison St.

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