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Nearly five children are hit by people driving every day in Illinois while walking or biking within one block of a school.

City leaning toward best Bus Rapid Transit design for livable streets, transit and economic development

Riders for Better Transit has been advocating for bold Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans on Western and Ashland for more than a year now, reaching out to aldermen, community groups and transit riders as the CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation considered various potential plans for BRT.

More than 1,300 people have signed our petition supporting BRT, and back in October, we encouraged you to attend public meetings and support our preferred design for rethinking Western and Ashland: bus-only lanes in the center of the street instead of a car travel lane, maintaining wide sidewalks and on-street parking (see graphic below).

We're excited to see WBEZ is now reporting that the city is leaning toward our preferred design! We believe this design can best acheive the goals of making our streets more livable while significantly improving transportation options and spurring neighborhood economic activity. Other design options on the table include curb-aligned bus-only lanes, and removing a lane of parking and medians instead of a car travel lane. Here's an explanation of our preference:

  • Bus-only lanes in the center of the street provide better transit than curbside lanes. Placing bus lanes in the center of the street helps to reduce conflicts with existing local bus routes, cars parking and turning, and other vehicles that may end up obstructing a lane near the curb. It significantly reduces the chances that the bus lane will be blocked and therefore makes everyone’s transit trip both faster and more reliable.
  • Wide sidewalks and on-street parking should be maintained. The new bus lanes could be created by taking a combination of car travel lanes, parking lanes, and/or sidewalk and median space. Rather than narrowing sidewalks or removing parking, Active Trans supports reprioritizing how we use the existing traffic lanes. Placing bus lanes in current car travel lanes preserves quality public space on our sidewalks that growing business districts can use for sidewalk seating. Replacing parking lanes with bus lanes would create six lanes of fast-moving traffic where there’s now only four. This will feel significantly less comfortable for people walking, especially if cars or buses are speeding by right against the sidewalk. On-street parking not only provides access to local businesses, but also provides a barrier between pedestrians and traffic that can make a street feel safer. Active Trans believes replacing car lanes will have a minimal impact on car travel speeds, and considering Chicago’s notorious congestion problem, it is essential that we provide better public transit options.

What about bikes? We support CDOT's Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 (PDF), which includes a network of 650 miles of innovative new bike facilities, like protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways. The bike network plan factors in the potential BRT plans, providing good parallel and cross-routes, as well as segments of bike lanes on Western where it's a boulevard. The center-aligned option removing a car travel lane would also create a more livable street and better environment for biking compared to the current four-lane speedway. 

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