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Cutting lanes on Ashland a really bad idea

Updated: October 22, 2013 6:08AM

Ican’t believe we’re even having a discussion about reducing the traffic lanes on Ashland Avenue by 50 percent because it’s too crowded for buses.

Nice thought, to make the world a better place for CTA buses. I’m a big fan of public transportation. Loved the convenience of riding the L downtown for years when I worked in the office, and always enjoy riding the Metros of the world. (Thwarting the pickpocket in Milan is a story for another day.)

But the idea of cutting Ashland down to one lane for cars is crazy on a bunch of levels.

First, the merchants are right to fear for their businesses. It will make life difficult for customers. We live a couple of blocks off of Ashland near Grand Avenue, and I already try not to drive on Ashland when I don’t have a compelling reason — my favorite hardware store and supermarket — to drive on it. I tend to avoid the bank branch and the taco place on Ashland in favor of businesses where traffic and parking are less of an issue.

The no-left-turn plan is such a can of worms, I can’t even imagine the traffic snarls that would create. What are people going to do? Make three right turns to go left? In marching band, we used to call that a triple-louie. In a car, people would call it something unprintable in a family newspaper.

When you add in our Singapore-like explosion of bicycles jockeying for pavement, trimming a lane from automobiles and trucks would be a recipe for snarling traffic and all kinds of traffic accidents.

Oh and by the way, this is sort of a bus lane to nowhere, especially in the initial phase, from Cortland to 31st St. Who’s riding that whole stretch? It’s not like it goes to the Loop — or some other compelling terminus. And if someone’s riding the bus for a portion of Cortland to 31st, the travel time isn’t all that big of a deal.

Even if this misguided plan — from Irving Park to 95th Street — was implemented in full boondoggle, there are already rapid-transit options that make more sense for public-transportation users. If I’m going that way, my first thought is to take a bus to the L, then take the L to 95th St. and grab another bus. (When the Dan Ryan L returns, of course.)

That said, there are things that could ease Ashland Avenue traffic congestion. For one thing, take out the let-them-eat-cake planter boxes. Greenery there is a luxury we can’t afford, and don’t need.

Even though they have reduced traffic on our residential street, I never was a fan of the Ashland Avenue planter boxes. They slow traffic and make it more hazardous — and they were an expense the city doesn’t need, for installation and maintenance.

All credit to the Mayors Daley for helping keep our city flourishing and vibrant in many ways. But neither of them was inclined to take a taxi when they could ride in a limo owned by one of their friends.

If the CTA really wants to unclog Ashland Avenue, here’s an idea: Build a platform above the median where buses (or light rail) can operate. Make it one lane with occasional two-lane sections so north- and south-bound vehicles can pass each other. There ought to be some federal stimulus money lying around for that.

Pie in the sky? Maybe. But not as scary as the nightmare of a single-lane, no-left-turn Ashland Avenue.


Twitter: @HerbGould

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