(Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune )
The CTA and Mayor Emanuel's office announced a detailed proposal last week to create express bus service on Ashland Avenue, but don't expect residents, riders or business owners to sign on too quickly.
The project would dedicate one center travel lane in each direction along Ashland Avenue between 95th Street and Irving Park Road for bus rapid transit, express bus service that typically relies on green-light priority and dedicated lanes for buses.
The move is expected to improve bus speeds up to 83 percent along Ashland Avenue. The No. 9 Ashland bus sees 30,726 weekday riders, the most of any CTA bus route.
Construction on the first phase of the project, which would run between the Clybourn Metra stop off Cortland Street and the Ashland Orange Line stop off of 31st Place, is expected to begin in 2015.
But some worries accompany the project: Drivers would squeeze into one travel lane each way along Ashland Avenue and wouldn't be able to make left turns. The CTA said 92 percent of the current parking would be retained, but some business owners could see less parking space.
While this project is a step forward for speeding CTA commutes, Going Public breaks down some potential concerns for riders—from bus connections to start and end points.
>>Limited stops: The express bus would stop every half-mile and at CTA stations, which is convenient for riders who live near major intersections. Those who don't live near these intersections could have to budget extra time because they would need to walk to the express bus pickup or use the No. 9 bus, which would make all its stops alongside the express bus. The problem is the No. 9 bus would share one travel lane with cars so it could run more slowly than it does now.
>>Missing connections: The initial start and end points of the project, the Metra Clybourn stop and the Ashland Orange station, are troublesome because of their lack of connecting bus service. On the South Side, no buses connect at the Ashland Orange Line stop except the Ashland bus. The CTA has been experimenting with bus service along 31st Street, but not near the Ashland station.
On the North Side, the CTA last month eliminated No. 33 Mag Mile Express service, which used to travel during rush hour from the Clybourn stop to downtown and then to the Western Metra stop, because the agency could not come to an agreement with Metra on a new cost to run the service. The No. 73 Armitage bus and No. 132 Goose Island Express still stops by the Clybourn stop.
Also, the area around the Metra Clybourn stop is not well lit and often is dirty. The CTA said it would work on the aesthetics of the area.
>>Ravenswouldn't: The CTA said it wanted to mirror current No. 9 service, so the express bus would not go north of Irving Park Road. Ashland Avenue runs about parallel to Clark Street north of Irving Park Road and eventually runs into Clark at about Edgewater Avenue, but for residents who live on Ashland Avenue between Irving Park and Lawrence Avenue in the Ravenswood area, it can be a hike to the No. 22 Clark bus.
Loop Fiasco, part 2: Return of the Fiasco
The second phase of the Wells Street Bridge overhaul project begins late Friday, when the CTA will stop Brown Line train service over the bridge into the Loop. Brown Line trains will be rerouted from late Friday until the morning hours of May 6. There will be no Purple Line express service during this time.
Some Brown Line trains will turn into Red Line trains after Fullerton while some Brown Line trains will terminate at the Merchandise Mart stop. There will be a special train circling the Loop during this time. There also will be shuttles traveling between the Merchandise Mart, Clark/Lake and Washington/Wells stations.
Tell Going Public about your commute next week using the #LoopFiasco hashtag.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Madison/Wabash in the Loop
This stop soon will become a consolidation station. Work was supposed to begin this month on merging the Madison stop with the nearby Randolph/Wabash station, a project long in the works. Emanuel said last year that work on the $75 million Washington/Wabash station was supposed to begin this month and be complete by September 2014. The Chicago Department of Transportation could not confirm on RedEye's deadline whether construction has started.
Next up: 87th Red Line
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