Are you BRT-curious? Check out these meetings

  • The CTA No. 14 Jeffery Express bus picks up commuters at 71st and Jeffrey. The route will be part of a bus rapid transit experiment to improve service on the South Side. (Tribune photo)
The CTA No. 14 Jeffery Express bus picks up commuters at 71st and Jeffrey.…
June 11, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

The CTA wants its riders to express themselves about express buses.

The agency is hosting open houses this week about bus rapid transit, an express bus system that typically relies on bus-only lanes and traffic priority for buses. The CTA is considering adding this service on Western and/or Ashland Avenues; a pilot is set to begin later this year on Jeffery Boulevard on the South Side.

The CTA has been slowly introducing the idea of bus rapid transit to Chicago. Last week, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which offers exhibits, lectures and education programs, hosted a bus rapid transit panel discussion that included CTA President Forrest Claypool, Chicago Department of Transportation Chief Gabe Klein and officials from Cleveland, San Francisco and New York. Those cities have either instituted bus rapid transit or they plan to soon.

One of the challenges, the officials noted, was getting the public excited about taking buses. In Chicago, bus ridership has waned—ridership was down from 327 million in 2008 to 310 million last year—while rail ridership jumped from 197 million to 221 million during the same period.

The bus ridership decline can be attributed, in part, to the 2010 service reductions that slashed 18 percent of bus service compared to 9 percent of rail service. The cuts also claimed nine express lines, including those that ran on Ashland and Western Avenues.

Those cuts saw some riders shift from buses to rail. But those who stuck with the buses continue to face the possibility of traffic, construction projects and reroutes.

In some parts of the city, such as the area near Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station, which serves suburban commuters, it's faster to walk on some days than take the buses, Klein said. CDOT is working on a plan for bus rapid transit in that area with construction to begin in 2014.

This type of relief is needed on Western and Ashland Avenues, where the non-express routes crawl along the thoroughfares during rush hour. The No. 9 Ashland route saw 10 million rides last year, second only to the No. 79 route on 79th Street, which saw 10.4 million rides. The No. 49 Western route logged 9 million rides, the third most of the CTA's 139 bus routes.

Theoretically, rapid transit buses would move faster than the now-defunct express buses if the CTA chose to create lanes for buses only and give buses traffic signal priority over cars along those corridors.

The rapid transit open houses will be held Tuesday at the Seventh District Police Station, 1438 W. 63rd St.; Wednesday at Lane Tech College Prep High School, 2501 W. Addison St.; and Thursday at Wells Community Academy High School, 936 N. Ashland Ave. All meetings are slated to run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Return of the hack

Registration is still available for Saturday's Hackatrain, billed as the first hackathon inside a CTA train. Web developers will build Web and mobile apps while riding a private Brown Line train. Go to hackatrain.eventbrite.com for more information.

Talk to us

Will the southern Red Line shutdown for five months next year affect your commute? Send an email to tswartz@tribune.com. Please include your full name, age and neighborhood.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Adams/Wabash

If the Adams/Wabash, the Madison/Wabash and the Randolph/Wabash stations in the Loop were sisters, Adams/Wabash would be Cinderella. Plans were announced last year to consolidate the Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash stations into one superstation at Washington Street and Wabash Avenue. That leaves the Adams/Wabash station, which overlooks the Art Institute but is not pretty. The station, built in the 19th century and overhauled nearly 25 years ago, has rusty canopies, dirty wooden platforms and graffiti on the stairwells. Hopefully this station can see a happy ending soon.

Next up: Fullerton station on Red, Brown and Purple Lines

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