Chicago's New BRT Push Will Be Linked to "Livability"

832432881_688c7184d6.jpgBogotá’s Transmilenio BRT. Could Chicago get something like this? (Photo: the mikebot via Flickr)

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we hear about new plans for Bus Rapid Transit from the blog of the Metropolitan Planning Council (the MPC is "an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization…[that] serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth").

A few years back, Chicago had a chance to develop pilot BRT routes, but missed some key funding deadlines. The project was abandoned, but is being taken up again now — with some interesting new angles prompted by federal policy changes. The MPC blog reports:

Fast-forward to a few months ago, when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a $280 million program to fund streetcar and BRT proposals. This encouraging news has led to the revival of the CTA’s BRT plan but with a twist: projects must not only be shovel-ready, they also must demonstrate the relationship to the six livability principles outlined by the federal government.  These livability principles ask transit agencies to consider the effects of the service on the surrounding areas, its ability to improve access to jobs and housing, and the potential to reduce environmental impacts in local communities.

MPC has been working with the Chicago Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) and CTA on a BRT Evaluation Study to analyze potential BRT routes throughout the city, based on characteristics outlined by the livability principles. While current ridership is an important factor being considered, the study also analyzes potential connections to existing CTA rail and Metra services, impacts of providing transit options in underserved areas, and connections to employment centers and other destinations.

More from around the network: Utility Cycling has part one of an analysis of what’s right and wrong with Google’s bike-there function. Cyclelicious has the story of an 87-year-old woman who is still biking for transportation, 74 years after she got her first bike. And Transit Miami has some pictures of what that city’s traffic looks like when it’s moving about 6 mph.

  • Paul Johnson

    A big problem with BRT in the US is traffic. Probably better off going with some kind of light rail.

  • Erik

    Here’s hoping that these BRT plans will dedicate lanes and calm some of the nasty 4+ lane roads like Chicago, Ashland, Western, MLK, etc, etc.

    We can learn much from NYC’s success with securing breathing room to try new designs via pilot programs. Hopefully they can also find a way to set aside some much needed space for bicycles in the form of cycle tracks! ‘Please-door-me’ lanes are a thing of the past.

    Although, it will be interesting to see if redesigns will be made more difficult now that the city has to reimburse Morgan Stanley for any parking spaces affected.

  • if BRT being linked with livability in a positive way is a requirement for winning federal funding, it simply won’t be funded — there’s nothing about BRT that improves any one of the six livability principles outlined by the DOT.

    but i look forward to the proposal Chicago puts forward — if they put one forward — should make for interesting reading.

  • I hate to be cynical, but with funding cutbacks as severe as they’ve been to the regular CTA here, I don’t see funding for this project becoming available any time soon. After the most recent CTA “doomsday” they drastically scaled back the frequency of bus service and eliminated other routes all together, including many of the express routes. It’s been hell for a lot of people, especially in places without easy access to the el trains and people who work graveyard or early morning shifts. I would love to see more transit options in Chicago, but yeah, we’ll see how the money situation plays out.

  • In case you missed this NY-Times article, check it out. It’s about a bus rapid transit system that is so efficient that it is registered with the UN as a carbon mitigation project worth carbon credits (dollars) in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is a carbon trading market in the Kyoto Protocol:

    By Degrees
    “Buses May Aid Climate Battle in Poor Cities”
    By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
    Published: July 10, 2009
    [www.nytimes.com/2009/07/10/world/americas/10degrees.html]
    Low-emission buses could greatly reduce heat-trapping gases produced in the developing world’s booming cities.

    CDM: BRT Bogotá, Colombia: TransMilenio Phase II to IV
    [cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/DB/DNV-CUK1159192623.07/view]

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