Anti-BRT Group Proposes Alternatives, Discusses Strategy

Roger Romanelli of the Ashland-Western Coaltion holds up one of the group's signs at a meeting Wednesday evening in West Town.

Around 40 concerned residents and business owners turned out Wednesday evening to hear about what next steps the Ashland-Western Coalition is proposing to stop the city’s plan to bring bus rapid transit to Ashland Avenue.

With cars whizzing by behind them, attendees seated in a fenced in parking lot at Orlando Glass and Trim, at 641 N. Ashland, heard a presentation outlining the negative impact the city’s plan on the street and neighborhoods, an outline of the group’s alternative proposal and what the group needs to do next to succeed.

Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association, said the group was committed to improving bus transit along Ashland but was opposed to what the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Transit Authority are proposing.

“We want the best public transit for our city,” Romanelli said. “We want to work with our mayor. We want to work with our aldermen and our congressman. We are saying ‘No thank you’ to the [express bus plan] as of today. We don’t think Ashland is ready.”

The city’s current proposal for the Ashland project is for a center lane running express bus service from 31st Street to Cortland Avenue with stops every half mile. But in order to achieve this, the current four lanes of traffic on Ashland Avenue would be reduced to a single lane in each direction. Local bus service would continue, and except for a few intersections that connect directly to expressways, all left turns would be prohibited.

Read more at DNA Info Chicago.

13 Responses to Anti-BRT Group Proposes Alternatives, Discusses Strategy

  1. Jeff says:

    Ashland Avenue is one of only three 4-lane north/south arterial surface streets in the City of Chicago (the others are Western and Cicero). The BRT proposal would turn Ashland Avenue into an all day traffic crawl, as 2 lanes of traffic are squeezed into one.

    BRT proponents claim that people will just drive less if a lane of traffic is eliminated on Ashland. What this argument fails to grasp is that the people who use Ashland to commute do so because public transit simply does not work for them. Maybe their home/job is inaccessible by public transit (or in an area where public transit would mean going through unsafe areas of the City). Maybe their work requires them to have a car during the day. Maybe they have disabilities that make use of public transit impractical. Suffice to say, all of these thousands of commuters are not going to suddenly start taking public transit or Divvy bikes to make their commutes.

    Moreover, BRT proponents claim that Ashland drivers have alternate streets they could use. In the first place, all of these alternates (Halsted, Western, Racine, Lakeshore etc.) are already clogged with cars during rush hour. Moving the former Ashland drivers to these overtaxed streets would only increase rush hour gridlock and increase the number of accidents, as more vehicles are crowded into a shrinking area of pavement (especially as cars try to use side streets to avoid traffic backlogs).

    In addition, many of these alternates may be reduced in capacity in the near future. CTA has already floated the idea of turning Western Avenue into a BRT route as well. The Active Transit Alliance has also floated the nutball idea of taking a lane of traffic away from Lakeshore Drive and using it as a BRT lane (imagine what that would do on the 30 nights a year that the Cubs play a night game at Wrigley). And practically every week there is new proposal for a road diet, protected bike lane, or other project that would remove another traffic lane from cars (such a proposal was just recently made for a protected bike lane on Broadway, through Edgewater, Uptown and Lakeview). Simply put, these alternates may soon have even less capacity to absorb traffic that formerly used Ashland Avenue.

    Plus, you might want to ask emergency workers (paramedics, firefighter, police) how they feel about taking out Ashland Avenue as a north/south emergency route. At present, with 2 lanes of traffic, the cars can move to the right and allow an emergency vehicle to pass down Ashland Avenue. With only one lane of traffic (sandwiched between parked cars on the right and the bus lane on the left), this becomes problematic. While emergency vehicles could traverse Ashland by switching back and forth from the bus lane to the traffic lane, this would seem like an accident waiting to happen.

  2. bogeyboy says:

    Jeff, not to mention how the effects of having a BRT on Ashland in the height of winter, when traffic is already often slower anyway because of snow, salt trucks, etc.

  3. Jeff says:


    Too many of CDOT’s transportation initiatives (BRT, divvy bike stands on the street, bike lanes, traffic circles, traffic calming bumpouts, road diets, etc.) fail to consider the impact of snow/winter weather.

    Snow removal, especially on side streets, is nothing like it used to be years ago in the City. These day, it’s often hard to tell if the plow has even been there or not.

    Many of these transportation initiatives will become traffic obstructions/traffic hazards with a good 6-8 inch snowfall. To say nothing of what another mega-storm (like the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011) would do.

    Mix half ass plowed streets/non-plowed sidewalks, add reduced lane capacity from all of Gabe Klein’s traffic obstructing projects, and you will have a real “winter of discontent.”

  4. Drew says:

    Once Again….This city needs someone like Me as mayor…

    To ensure that this sort of Half Assed shit does not ever grow roots.

    The Commish of CDoT has his head up his Ass

  5. Jeff says:

    Gabe Klein’s plan ignores the fact that Ashland is not a suitable street for installing a BRT, since that installation would leave only one traffic lane open.

    In New York (the US city most analogous to Chicago in terms of transit), the BRT projects on First and Second Avenue took out just one lane of a one way, 5-lane street. Moreover, the New York BRT left very close parallel arterial streets and a limited access freeway (Third Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and FDR Drive) to which traffic could be displaced. The Ashland BRT will leave only one lane of traffic open, and the nearest comparable arterial street is Western Avenue, a mile away.

  6. Mike says:

    Let’s just say it. Rahm sucks; Gabe Klein sucks. They hate cars and motorists. If you have a car then they want to punish you with unnecessary traffic jams, increased taxes, and photo speed tickets. Screw them both!

  7. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Give me your nominating petition and I will sign it!!!!

  8. Moustapha Ndiaye says:

    I can’t believe people think that this group speaks for “businesses.” It speaks for a couple businesses, and there’s a lot who support BRT. Besides, is anyone listening to people who actually live and vote near Ashland? I do, and I’ll tell you one thing, when Ashland’s congested with all you people feeling sorry for yourselves cuz you can’t drive like you can in Schaumberg, I don’t want MY bus to be stuck behind you.

  9. John VR says:

    Moustapha Ndiaye: I live and vote near Ashland and think that BRT is crap.
    (Psssst: Buses are for kids… bike too)

  10. Barry Aldridge says:

    I support BRT on Ashland. I live near Ashland up by Addison and can’t wait for it to come this far north. I also drive a car, but I think the inconvenience of only one lane of traffic on Ashland will be worth the benefit. It will mean much faster trips for the 10 million rides on the #9 bus every year on a form of transportation that is far more efficient than private cars. It will likely get me to use the #9 more often. There will still be plenty of ways to go north/south – Halsted, Elston, Racine, Southport, Clybourn – and Ashland will also still have car traffic. In a city that has become more and more centered around automobiles in the past 20 years, I am very happy to see that on one street, in one instance, public transit will be given preference.

  11. Jeff says:

    Ashland BRT advocates claims that there is no problem with reducing Ashland Avenue to one lane, since trucks will be able to use parallel north-south streets instead. These BRT advocates should be careful what they wish for:,0,324294.story

  12. Pete says:

    When Gabe Klein’s plan eventually goes into full effect: constant gridlock, only one travel lane each direction on all city roads, bike lanes everywhere, no more room for cars. I wonder what will happen when emergency vehicles become unable to navigate the city in any reasonable amount of time due to the constantly gridlocked traffic? How will people yield to an ambulance when there is no other lane to move to? Maybe Gabe will be the one waiting for an ambulance in this case – it would only be fitting.

  13. Jeff says:

    If anyone still doesn’t understand how BRT can fail by making road traffic worse, check out the following example from crowded mega-city New Dehli, India:–failed-brt–model-panel/399389

    Money quote:

    “one of the major failures of this transport model in Delhi has been to take away seven metres of road width from the already inadequate right
    of way of the road.”

    As this example demonstrates, where BRT is installed on a roadway that already has heavy traffic volume, a BRT project can make a bad traffic sitation even worse.

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