Chicago's Bold BRT Plan Gets Pushback from Businesses

The plan being proposed for a new bus-rapid-transit (BRT) line operating along busy Ashland Avenue would limit left turns and see the removal of a traffic lane. Will it survive "political vetting by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office"?
January 30, 2013, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Chip Mitchell reports on the controversy surrounding the ambitious plan for 4.5 miles of Ashland Avenue being backed by the Chicago Transit Authority, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development. "The design favored by the Chicago planners resembles the boldest of four BRT alternatives the city presented last fall for the corridor. Each direction of Ashland would have one regular traffic lane and a bus-only lane near the middle of the avenue. In each direction, the design leaves a parking lane next to the sidewalk, city officials say. There would be no bike lanes." The route would incorporate other features including: station platforms, advanced payment, and prioritized traffic lights.

"Some Chicago business owners along the route are already voicing worries about BRT, particularly about eliminating non-bus lanes. 'The idea of cutting the traffic capacity in half has caused a lot of questions for businesses and property owners,' said Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association."

"City officials respond that their BRT plan would slow automobiles just slightly and speed up buses dramatically," notes Mitchell. "The city says the new bus service would be up to 80 percent faster than today’s service."

"Asked whether Emanuel was behind the plan and whether he would stick behind it if business owners revolted, his office had little to say. 'All of this is still under review,' Tom Alexander, a mayoral spokesman, wrote in an email message to WBEZ."

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Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 in WBEZ
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