Ashland chosen as city’s first bus rapid transit corridor
SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE April 19, 2013 10:16AM
Updated: April 19, 2013 10:40AM
A 16-mile stretch of Ashland will be the city’s first target for bus rapid transit, with a plan for high-speed buses from 95th to Irving Park announced Friday at a cost of about $10 million per mile.
The goal of the plan is faster and more reliable bus service, with plans to increase bus speeds more than 80 percent during peak rush periods.
The route would feature a dedicated center bus lane in each direction, with buses stopping only once every half-mile, and at CTA stations, buses would receive “traffic-signal priority at intersections,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
Bus stations would be upgraded; landscaped medians would be built between stops; and the routes would be enhanced with better lighting, wider sidewalks and more greenery. About 90 percent of street parking would be preserved on both sides of Ashland.
The Ashland corridor, with 30,000 rider per weekday — the highest of any CTA bus route — and connections to numerous CTA and Metra routes, got the nod for the program over Western after a yearlong study.
Preliminary estimates show that BRT will cost about $10 million per mile, with planning and design funded by federal grants.
The plan is expected to shave eight minutes off 2½-mile trip on the No. 9 Ashland bus route and to allow for pre-payment to speed boarding time.
About 90 percent of street parking would be preserved on both sides of Ashland, along with about 95 percent of loading zones for delivery truck.
“Our goal is to balance the needs of riders, drivers, residents and businesses in this corridor,” CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein said in the statement. “This configuration will allow us to provide the fastest bus trips and minimize disruption to traffic flow while retaining landscaped medians, as well as almost all parking and loading zones.”
Analysis and design will continue through this year, with implementation phased in, beginning with the area from Cortland to 31st.
Planners also hope the route will bring the same types of economic advantages that a similar program in the Bronx, N.Y., did. Faster trips to business districts and increased foot traffic helped bring a 71 percent jump in retail sales to the area.