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Backers of Ashland bus rapid transit plan object to left-turn ban

SandrRuiz 57 raised questions about Ashlbus rapid transit plan which would require passengers hop buses from  boarding aremiddle street.

Sandra Ruiz, 57, raised questions about the Ashland bus rapid transit plan, which would require passengers to hop on buses from a boarding area in the middle of the street. She fears that would make it difficult for elderly residents to catch a bus. “You want everything to move fast, but what about the elderly?” she said. | Kevin Tanaka~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 19, 2013 7:32PM

Even some supporters of a plan to put dedicated bus lanes in the center of Ashland Avenue joined opponents Tuesday night in criticizing a ban on almost all left turns on such a major street.

Tough questioning of the Chicago Transit Authority’s proposal to bring “bus rapid transit” to an initial 5.4-mile stretch of Ashland won the biggest applause from about 60 observers at a CTA briefing.

Dan Ryan, an audience member, accused CTA officials of “racing through statistics’’ during a slide presentation on the plan to install center bus lanes on Ashland from Cortland to 31st Street. The No. 9 Ashland bus, car and truck traffic would have to share what in most cases would be a single lane in each direction.

“You’re ignoring all the problems this creates,’’ said Ryan, 49. “I’m very much against this project.”

He also was concerned about how parents would pick up their children on Marshfield at a special-needs school his child attends if left turns off Ashland are virtually eliminated.

Lindsay Bayley, 34, told the audience at Talcott School that she doesn’t own a car and thinks bus rapid transit is “a great idea.”

But she said: “I feel a lot of residents have a valid concern” about the ban on left turns. She suggested an approach used in Sydney, Australia, where buses occupy a dedicated center lane but cars in the right lane are allowed to turn left when buses are absent.

Several residents voiced concern about possible traffic overflow onto side streets if cars that can’t make a left turn on Ashland and wind up making three right turn through residential streets.

CTA point man Joe Iacobucci said an initial modeling study indicated that 35 percent of the traffic now on Ashland would divert to major arterial streets, and none to side streets because drivers would find them too slow.

Iacobucci conceded that such modeling isn’t always “100 percent right” and the CTA is doing a more detailed analysis.

Iacobucci also revealed that “local funds” must contribute 20 percent of the $60 million tab for the Cortland-31st Street bus rapid transit project. Officials are exploring ways of covering that contribution, perhaps by kicking in the cost of existing CTA buses, he said.

“What if this turns out to be a disaster?” Martin Swift said. “Where do you get the money to undo this?”

Proponents — in the minority but definitely present — praised the prospect of speedier buses. Nora Beck, 34, said the city’s transit system has “improved my life” by saving her money to spend on restaurants and “higher rents.”

One woman said requiring passengers to hop on buses from a center boarding area would make it difficult for elderly residents to cross the street in time to catch a bus.

“You want everything to move fast, but what about the elderly?” said Sandra Ruiz, 57.

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