New Chicago BRT Rapid in Name Only

Without full-time bus-only lanes, signal priority, advanced ticket sales, or all-door boarding, the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) tentative first steps aboard Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may not be so speedy after all.

Jon Hilkevitch describes what will be provided when the CTA's upcoming $11 million federally funded BRT experiment launches later this year on the No. 14 route, and it seems to fall short of the standard characterization of Bus Rapid Transit.

Being careful not to offend car drivers by "imposing major negative impacts," the main features of the "BRT" that will operate on Jeffery Boulevard will be limited stops, traffic signal priority for a 1.5-mile stretch (which won't be operational until 2013), and part-time bus-only lanes, reports Hilkevitch.

New shelters, newly branded buses, and monitors inside buses displaying bus and train tracking information should help make the route feel special, even if, as Hilkevitch asserts, "the modest experiment is a far cry from CTA plans unveiled only two years ago to help address the city's congestion crisis."

"Transit officials plan to follow up with more robust BRT efforts in the central Loop in 2014 and in subsequent years on Western and Ashland avenues when money becomes available." 

Yet some fear, "that the CTA's watered-down, phased-in substitute could form the public misconception that BRT isn't much of an improvement over regular express bus service, except for the fancy packaging and higher cost."

Full Story: CTA's bus rapid transit won't be so rapid

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