Chicago Building a More Bus-Friendly Central City

Chicago will invest more than $30 million in establishing a network of streamlined busways known as the "Central Area Transitway." Photo: ##http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2012/02/22/chicago-commits-to-downtown-bus-priority/## Transport Politic##

Big announcement yesterday out of Chicago: Mayor Rahm Emanuel is moving ahead with a system of priority busways between Union Station and Navy Pier. The “Central Area Transitway” will include dedicated bus lanes, signal priority for transit vehicles, and frequent service during rush hour, improving trips for riders on several different bus routes.

The $32 million plan has some limitations, says Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic. For example, it makes a tourist destination –Navy Pier — its terminus, limiting its usefulness to commuters, and bus riders will save only about 1.1 minutes on trips between Union Station and Michigan Avenue. But Chicago is laying the groundwork for something bigger and giving residents more options at the same time, and that’s exciting news, Freemark says:

If the CTA designs signage well enough, customers attempting to make the trip from Oglivie Transportation Center — another commuter rail station — to Millennium Park would have six services to choose from, offering fantastic headways of one minute at peak and two minutes off-peak. But the city will have to be careful not to place too much emphasis on the “Central Area Transitway” brand that it will give to the bus that runs the full route from Union Station to Navy Pier, because the most important element of this improvement project is its provision of minor improvements to many bus lines, not just a single one. It should be clear to customers that if they want to take a certain trip, they have several options.

Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership, Chicago is taking an incremental approach to the improvement of public transportation in the city, steering away from the mega-fantasies of the Daley era. The CTA is already planning to invest in similar bus priority improvements on Jeffery Boulevard in the South Side for the #14 bus and along the north-south spine of Western Avenue as part of a citywide BRT plan that would fill in the gaps missing from inadequate rail service in certain areas. Slowly but surely, the city’s bus lines are scheduled for improvement.

Yet the city’s bigger ambitions remain apparent. In the application for the federal urban circulator grant in 2010, the city included the following map, documenting potential new transit routes for the center city along dedicated rights-of-way, clearly modeled after the improvements suggested by the 2009 Central Area Action Plan, which proposed light rail lines on the Carroll, Clinton, Monroe, and Lakefront Corridors. They would either be placed underground or along dedicated transit routes, like the McCormick Center busway (for the Lakefront route).

Elsewhere on the Network today: Los Alamos Bikes considers the news that the League of American Bicyclists, Bikes Belong and the Alliance for Biking and Walking are considering a merger. Car Free Baltimore reviews some of the best strategies for minimizing injuries to pedestrians and cyclists at arterial roadways — where traffic injuries are most common. And Second Avenue Sagas explores how the House transportation bill would damage New York City’s transit system.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Transit Priority Streets Making a Comeback in D.C.

|
Forty years ago, the Washington region had 60 miles of bus lanes on its streets, a network that was erased once Metrorail started operating. Today passengers make about half a million trips on Metro buses each weekday, not a great deal less than Metrorail, but there is no network of priority streets for buses. That’s starting […]

Transit Priority Streets Making a Comeback in D.C.

|
Forty years ago, the Washington region had 60 miles of bus lanes on its streets, a network that was erased once Metrorail started operating. Today passengers make about half a million trips on Metro buses each weekday, not a great deal less than Metrorail, but there is no network of priority streets for buses. That’s starting […]

Feds Announce Winners of $293 Million in Transit Grants

|
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA chief Peter Rogoff announced the winners of $293 million in competitive grants for bus and streetcar projects today. The biggest chunks of funding will help build streetcar projects in Cincinnati, Charlotte, Fort Worth, and St. Louis, as well as rapid bus corridors in New York and Chicago. All told, […]

Will President Obama Speak for the Transit-Starved Tonight?

|
President Obama is expected to make a strong push for infrastructure spending during the State of the Union address tonight. Ahead of the address, the Transportation Equity Network organized its members and supporters to write to President Obama, telling their personal stories of why transit funding is crucial to their communities. In all, TEN will deliver […]

Salt Lake City, Rising Transit Star

|
On the roster of cities making progress on green transportation in the western U.S., you have the usual suspects like Portland and Denver. But in terms of building track miles and adding busways, the city on the fastest pace might just be Salt Lake City, Utah. Over the last decade, the capital of the reddest […]

Chicago Aims for Zero Traffic Deaths by 2022

|
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his DOT head Gabe Klein have introduced a bold, 100-page plan to make the Windy City’s transportation system more safe and sustainable. Published last week, the “Chicago Forward Action Agenda” [PDF] places a very strong emphasis on safety, in addition to setting admirable cycling ridership targets and goals for transit investment. Highlights include: A […]