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Bus Advocates: Chicago BRT Plan Could Be Better

The Central Loop BRT project, scheduled to break ground this month, will improve commuter travel times. But a collection of compromises means many ideal BRT components won't be installed.
March 8, 2015, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Eric Jaffe writes that while Chicago's upcoming Central Loop BRT corridor will benefit travelers, the pro-bus community isn't wholly satisfied with compromises made. "Several design elements of top-notch BRT are missing from the Central Loop project. Only one of the eight stops will have off-board fare payment when the system launches. The Windy City has passed on weather-enclosed train-style stations for open bus shelters. The buses will lack camera-enforcement for exclusive lanes and even lose that exclusivity for a block."

Concern among bus supporters extends to the planned Ashland corridor, a more ambitious BRT project. "They share a general fear that skimping on core BRT elements could compromise the project and make it harder to gain public support later on for service expansions or improvements. Such concerns have left some BRT advocates wondering if Chicago is in danger of failing to become the American model of world-class bus service."

A long-term parking revenue deal also means Chicago cannot redesign its streets freely. "For a one-time fee of $1.15 billion—most of it spent immediately filling budget deficits—Chicago leased its parking spaces, and the meter revenue that comes with them, to Morgan Stanley for the next 75 years."

Jaffe concludes on a positive note: "A final point in the plus column: whatever compromises the Central Loop BRT has endured is in many ways a product of the very public feedback system cities have demanded."

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Published on Thursday, February 26, 2015 in CityLab
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