Chicagoans inspect the presentation boards at the open house.
As part of the federal public planning process, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) is required to hold at least one public meeting for any project funded by federal grants. This is the case with the Central Loop BRT project for which an open house was held Wednesday, May 2, 2012. CDOT requests comments about the project, to go on public record and to be included in a submission to the federal government, to be submitted by May 9.
You can email your comments to CentralLoopBRT@cityofchicago.org. To help you prepare a comment, the following materials and information is being provided:
What is BRT?
In as few words as possible, it’s a bus system that offers the some of the advantages associated with rail service.
From CDOT’s fact sheet handed out at the open house, “BRT is a term applied to a variety of bus service designs that help provide faster, more efficient and more reliable services than an ordinary bus line.” “True” or “gold standard” BRT systems include these four critical elements:
- Dedicated lanes that no other motor vehicles can use. The Central Loop BRT project will have dedicated bus lanes with tinted pavement.
- Off-board fare collection. you pay before you get on the bus to speed boarding. This will not be present in the Chicago projects.
- Signal priority at intersections, letting the bus go first when it’s green. The Central Loop BRT project will have this.
- Level boarding. No stepping up or down from the bus to the street. Of the three scenarios, the “Basic” scenario would not have this. “Balanced” and “Focused” would.
Where in the United States is BRT used?
Los Angeles, California – L.A. is known as the king of car culture in America, but it also has an extremely extensive and diverse transit system. Eugene, Oregon; Cleveland, Ohio; New York City, New York; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where in the world is BRT used?
BRT was invented in South America and is used in many major cities and capitals. These are just a handful of the cities that use BRT:
- Curitiba, Brasil – First BRT system in the world, started in 1974
- Bogotá, Colombia
- Mexico City, Mexico
- Santiago, Chile
- Hangzhou, China
- Seoul, South Korea
- Johannesburg, South Africa
Is this a BRT project?
This project will construct some of the elements of BRT, including items 1, 3, and 4, in the “critical elements” list above. Think of the east-west circulator service as a complete streets upgrade to streets that are currently designed to best accommodate automobile traffic, and pedestrian traffic somewhat (there is a higher volume of people on sidewalks than in the roadway). When the project is built, the streets will balance all transportation modes: bus transit will be expedited and new bikeways will be constructed.
A map of the enhanced bus routes in the central Loop on Madison, Washington, Randolph (bike lanes only), Clinton, and Canal.
Materials from the open house
Handouts, including fact sheets from CDOT+CTA, and Metropolitan Planning Council. I’ve compiled those handouts into a single PDF along with a flyer from Citizens Taking Action, a resident’s prepared comments, and the CDOT comment card.
Study report by MPC
Metropolitan Planning Council, a 75-year organization that promotes good transportation policy, released a study in August 2011 that methodologically suggested 10 routes for BRT in Chicago.
From the study report, it appears that MPC conducted well-informed research with good methodology. The study report (pdf), for the most part, clearly explains how they found 10 routes, pared from all existing CTA bus routes, to recommend for bus rapid transit in Chicago. For brevity and clarity, I believe, details about the process were left out. These details would most likely only be understood by those trained in transportation planning and the special geography and modeling software that was used. The report is laid out in an easy to follow and nicely designed fashion. The report talks about complications when removing travel lanes for personal and commercial automobiles which, in the current atmosphere of Chicago politics and community organizing, will probably be one of two extremely difficult processes when advocating for and building a widespread BRT.
The second process, comprising my only complaint about the study report, is the lack of discussion about the impact of the parking meter lease on modifying (swapping or removing) on-street parking to accommodate a BRT system, where such modification may be necessary.
The study’s methodology includes atypical transportation planning factors that emphasize the United States Department of Transportation’s livability principles, for which MPC should be commended for incorporating these. These six livability principles are:
- Provide more transportation choices
- Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices
- Improve economic competitiveness of neighborhoods
- Target federal funding toward existing communities
- Align federal policies and funding
- Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities
The factors studied are on page 9. MPC developed its own criteria and weighting scale for livability analysis, discussed on pages 10-13. Visit the study’s website for appendices and video presentations.
Upcoming event to learn more
Bus Rapid Transit on the Western Avenue Corridor
Join us at Floyd’s Pub with special guests Josh Ellis and Peter Skosey from Metropolitan Planning Council and Chris Ziemann from the Chicago Transit Authority for discussion on Bus Rapid Transit. The event will include a short tour of Western Avenue where our guests will point out opportunities and challenges of retrofitting a street with BRT.
Thursday, May 31
1944 N Oakley Ave (1 block east of Western Blue Line station)