Did You Know?

About one-third of all work trips in Chicago are comprised of people biking, walking, or riding public transit.

Bus rapid transit may be in your transit future

Come to a public open house on the bus rapid transit project coming to Chicago's downtown. The open house will be held Wednesday, May 2 at 5 p.m. at the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Lecture Hall at 224 S. Michigan Ave. Learn more.

Did you know a new form of public transportation is coming to Chicago? It’s called bus rapid transit (BRT), and it will expand your transit options, making trips faster, more reliable and more convenient.

The photos pictured here show the BRT facilities in Mexico City.

Bus rapid transit provides the reliability, speed and quality of service of rail, but with the flexibility and cost efficiency of using buses on existing streets. Cities around the world–from Bogotá to Cleveland–have found BRT to be their best opportunity for expanding transit choices.

Don’t confuse BRT with your average city bus

Regular buses get held up by traffic congestion and lines of riders paying one-by-one as they board. This can lead to delays, bus bunching and slow travel speeds.

While regular buses average nine miles per hour, BRT’s limited stops and dedicated lanes with signal priority allow vehicles to travel faster while largely avoiding street congestion. BRT stations also function like train stations, with riders paying before they board–reducing time spent at each stop.

These are some of the core elements that set apart the most effective bus rapid transit systems:

Dedicated lanes help reduce traffic delays and road conflicts, making BRT vehicles faster and more reliable and making streets safer.

Pay-before-you-board stations reduce boarding times, while the permanence of stations provides economic development benefits similar to train stations.

Transit Signal Priority helps transit vehicles stay on time and reduces bunching by giving them preferential treatment at traffic lights.

At-grade boarding makes vehicles more accessible to seniors, people with disabilities and parents with strollers, while also reducing boarding time.

Check out a video of Bus Rapid Transit in action in Mexico City.

BRT in other US Cities

• Los Angeles, Calif.: The Metro Orange Line was so successful that a four-mile extension is under construction.

• Eugene, Ore.: The Emerald Express increased transit ridership by 74 percent and reduced trip times by 30 percent.

• Cleveland, Ohio: The Healthline, funded in part by private companies and institutions that benefit from the service, has generated more than $4 billion in new development and redevelopment along the route.

What can Chicagoans look forward to?

Chicago is developing three BRT routes, which will improve and enhance the city’s entire public transportation system. The Chicago BRT Task Force–which includes Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Civic Consulting Alliance, Metropolitan Planning Council, Urban Land Institute-Chicago, and other philanthropic, civic and nonprofit partners–is assisting CTA and CDOT as they develop Chicago’s system plan for BRT.

Later this year, the CTA will implement elements of BRT on the South Side along Jeffery Boulevard. Already a high-ridership bus route, Jeffery will be enhanced from 103rd Street and Stony Island Boulevard to the Loop, including dedicated lanes, limited stops, and enhanced stations between 67th and 83rd streets, as well as transit signal priority between 73rd and 84th streets.


Over the next couple months, the city will also begin public meetings for the East-West Transit Corridor and Western/Ashland Corridor.

The East-West Transit Corridor BRT plan includes designated bus-priority lanes on two miles of streets in Chicago’s Central Business District. The route would serve Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, the CTA Red and Blue Line subways, Streeterville and Navy Pier.

A new, off-street transportation center just south of Union Station is also part of the concept. By promoting transit, biking and walking, this new route would make the Loop an even more attractive place to do business, visit and live.

The city will also be studying the feasibility of BRT along Western and/or Ashland avenues, from Howard to 95th Street–approximately 21 miles.

Active Trans has been partnering with the Metropolitan Planning Council to conduct outreach for BRT in this corridor by meeting with aldermen and community organizations to spread the word about the benefits of a possible BRT route. A 2011 report by the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council, which outlined a vision for BRT in Chicago, ranked this route highly, not only because it would fill existing gaps in the city’s transit network, but also because of the high potential to spark economic and community development in the neighborhoods traversed by the route.