Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues


Active Trans staffer Lee Crandell talks to Enrique Rico. The three poster boards are displayed at the bottom. 

Riders for Better Transit is reaching out to bus riders across the city to inform them about plans to build better bus service on Western Avenue or Ashland Avenue (or both?). They visited six bus stops last week with informational posters. Lee Crandell, campaigns director for Active Transportation Alliance, was staffing the exhibit at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue in Pilsen when I visited last Wednesday. One goal of the outreach, Crandell said, was to “make a public meeting in the street for those who couldn’t attend” the static meetings.

When I arrived, Enrique Rico was waiting for the northbound Ashland 9 bus. I noticed the next bus was coming so I tried to ask Rico a quick question before leaving, starting with if he had heard of BRT (bus rapid transit) before now. He said he hadn’t, but Crandell informed me that Rico had told him earlier he was familiar with the enhanced bus services in Mexico City. The Metropolitan Planning Council, a major sponsor of this traveling exhibit, had sent a few of its staff members to Mexico City to explore the 4 line Metrobús system that opened in 2005.

There, Metrobús requires passengers pay before boarding and enter the bus station through turnstiles, just like at Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) ‘L’ stations. The system uses articulated buses with three doors for people to enter and exit, onto a level platform. These features are part of what the Institute for Transportation Development and Policy (ITDP) calls the “gold standard”. Other major features to reach gold are a separated lane (that no other vehicle can be driven in), and signal priority at intersections (so buses don’t have to wait for the next green to go).

Riders for Better Transit, and all of the other sponsors of the exhibit, are advocating for these elements on a BRT line that would travel down Western Avenue, Ashland Avenue, or both. Crandell expects that the next set of public meetings will show some alternatives that will depict possible routing options. Their campaign is asking bus riders to contact their alderman to tell them “you want a world-class BRT system for your neighborhood” (according to a flyer Crandell was passing out).

Take action: Contact your alderman and request that they support better bus service in the form of bus rapid transit (BRT).

In related news, the City of Chicago recently awarded a $3.5 million contract to Sumit Construction to build the bus rapid transit lanes on the Jeffery Corridor, including bus-only lanes during rush hour, new bus stop shelters, and signal priority at intersections. The improvements will be on Jeffery Boulevard from 67th to 103rd Streets.




The third poster board showed a possible design of a centered bus lane down Ashland Avenue at 18th Street. 


A close up of the centered bus lane down Ashland Avenue at 18th Street.


A rendering of what the bus stop at 18th and Ashland might look like. Renderings by Chicago Transit Authority and Kevin Pound. The traveling exhibit is done in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which has hosted BRT events this year, and has an exhibit at its headquarters, 224 S Michigan Avenue. 

Updated 14:45 to add bottom two renderings.

9 thoughts on “Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues”

  1. I certainly hope they’re not planning on bringing turnstiles here. It adds a lot to the required infrastructure of the BRT stop, and even with BRT I don’t think someplace like Ashland & 18th will have Tokyo subway levels of passengers. They’re also expensive to run and maintain—at BRT levels of ridership, it’s more cost-effective to have roving fare inspectors (as is done on many light rail systems).

    1. I’ve always wondered about enforcement of POP systems. Are these well-enforced in other cities? I’ve never seen anyone ticketed for not having a ticket (in U.S. and European cities), but perhaps I’ve just been unlucky.

      Also, would there be safety concerns in a place like Chicago about confronting scofflaws? My understanding is that these systems are not enforced by police officers, but maybe they are.

      1. I’ve not heard of unbeatable problems or problematic proof of payment systems in the United States. The fines are extremely high (requiring new state legislation). Transit operators might develop a threshold of acceptable fare evasion.
        Here’s an article in the Transportation Research Board library about studying fare evasion on the San Francisco’s Muni system (light rail) which uses proof of payment.

        “Besides providing base data to measure future progress, the study enabled SFMTA to educate its customers about proof-of-payment requirements and deploy its fare enforcement personnel more efficiently and cost-effectively in an effort to improve fare compliance.”

      2. I’ve seen enforcement of POP in Canada and throughout Europe. It works, quite well. The penalty needs to be steep enough.

  2. I love this. Anything that speeds up bus service is really going to help. Like the previous commenter, I’m also not sure turnstiles are the best approach for Chicago, but I really like the idea of BRT.

    * Also it would be nice if the Western bus ran north of Berwyn

  3. With P O P anybody can get on the bus (until they get thrown or taken off), there is enough trouble on CTA already with fare evasion and iphone robberies and stuff – with people having to pay when they board the bus (or to access the ‘L’ platform).

    The bus pulls up to a flash mob, who jam on unimpeded – then what?? (the Police being called 137 times a day)

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