Residents Express Concern Over Ashland BRT

Photo credit: CTA

About 40 residents who will be directly impacted by the proposed Ashland Bus Rapid Transit project attended a meeting in the East Village neighborhood Monday according to DNA Info Chicago.

Many of the attendees expressed concern over recently announced news on the project that no left turns will be allowed except at streets which connect directly to the expressway.

The Ashland BRT plan is to take out a full lane for vehicular traffic in each direction so that express buses would be able to travel the approximately five miles between 31st Place and Cortland Avenue. The center lane would be used for loading and unloading passengers at half mile intervals. The current Ashland bus would still operate, but less frequently.

Planners on the project are also suggesting a prohibition of truck traffic on Ashland Ave. as well.

However, despite these changes and cutting Ashland’s capacity for non-bus traffic to just 50% of what it is now, CTA planner Joe Iacobucci said vehicle speeds will only be reduced by one to four percent.

Many attendees, according to the story, were skeptical of these projections.

Iacobucci said 31,000 people ride the Ashland bus each weekday but could not immediately say how many cars use the route daily.

Greg Nagel, a real estate broker, told Iacobucci, “You have all the stats on benefits but none on the costs.” Nagel complained the express bus plan “benefits bus riders at the cost of drivers.”

Read the full story at DNA Info, “Ashland Express Bus: Left Turn Reductions, Truck Traffic Raise Concerns.”

23 Responses to Residents Express Concern Over Ashland BRT

  1. Jeff says:

    Let’s see. Take all the cars that used to jam 2 lane of traffic on Ashland at rush hour. Now jam all those cars even tighter into one lane. Now keep the local Ashland Bus service in that one lane, so that all those cars sardined together have to stop every 2 blocks for the local Ashland bus.

    And the city claims there will little to no effect on vehicle speeds on Ashland. Who are they kidding?

    BRT works on streets where there are multiple lanes/excess capacity to handle the loss of a single lane. Ashland is not one of those streets.

    The only way for BRT to work on Ashland would be to take out the parking lanes on either side of Ashland, and maintain two lanes of vehicle traffic. But unless the City could negotiate a reasonable buyout of those spaces under the current parking meter lease, this would not be an option.

    Back to the drawing board, CDOT.

  2. Drew says:

    The best solution would be to just turn Ashland into a rush hour street.

    No parking on either side 7am to 9am And 4pm to 6pm.

    No buy out to the meter lease idiots, and have tow trucks impounding the vehicles that don’t move, like they do on La Salle and other business district rush hour streets.

    The BRT lane idea is best placed into the toilet.

  3. Jeff says:

    Drew says:

    The best solution would be to just turn Ashland into a rush hour street.

    No parking on either side 7am to 9am And 4pm to 6pm.

    No buy out to the meter lease idiots, and have tow trucks impounding the vehicles that don’t move, like they do on La Salle and other business district rush hour streets.

    The BRT lane idea is best placed into the toilet.
    __________________________________________________

    I like your idea. But I wonder if the meter lease would require the city to pay for any metered spots that the city makes into “no-parking zones” at certain times of day. I would think that this would be addressed somewhere in the hundreds of pages of legalese.

    But even if the lease requires a payment for creating a four hour no-parking zone, it might be more reasonable than a full buyout of lost meter space.

  4. Greg says:

    I often wonder if any of the people who come with these plans have ever actually driven on the streets they are planning to change…

  5. David says:

    Taking out left turns can have a profound impact on traffic flows. Now I think we still have major problems if we leave Ashland local buses in place, but it might be a pleasant surprise for the traffic, even with the BRT, if left turns were banned.

    As for turning it into a “rush hour street”, that’s a very car centric, anti-pedestrian, anti-car, anti-bicycle approach. The fact is that a City, due to the number of people and the number of uses is necessarily going to see slower traffic than rural areas….. either that or we are going to turn the streets of our neighborhoods into “expressways” for the suburbanites.

  6. Mike says:

    I agree the people who pitch these ideas didn’t drive on these streets. They’re like little children who want instant gratification. I also believe that several bike protected lanes that eliminated lanes of car traffic have increase motorists commute time.

  7. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Jeff,

    You totally nailed it here.

    It’s just math!!!! Cutting capacity by 50% is going to have much more of an impact to average speed than 1% or even 4%.

    Of course, when they do this BRT thing to Ashland, many drivers will find another route. However, the average speed is not going to be reduced by only 1-4%. That estimate is so patently and outrageously FALSE I nearly woke my kids trying not to suppress a scream of “Bulls*#t!!!” at the top of my lungs.

    I wish I were at that meeting, I would have laughed in that guys face.

    He’s either a liar or a total moron.

  8. Jeff says:

    Geek:

    Local business leaders along Ashland Avenue are already organizing opposition to the Bus Rapid Transit Proposal:

    http://lincolnsquare.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/ashlandwestern-coalition-calls-for-sensible-bus-improvements-in-lieu-of-brt

    As these business owners have pointed out, CDOT/CTA completely failed to take into consideration the full impact of this project.

  9. Jeff says:

    David says:

    As for turning it into a “rush hour street”, that’s a very car centric, anti-pedestrian, anti-car, anti-bicycle approach.

    My comment:

    Perhaps a rush hour parking ban could be combined with exclusive bus use of the curbside lanes, during an extended rush hour period (6 – 10 am/4- 7 pm). That way, there would still be 2 lanes for cars, plus a lane solely for buses during rush hours, when it is really needed to keep buses moving/on schedule. And we wouldn’t need to spend millions tearing out Ashland Avenue (and all those trees and flowers in the median), building bus platforms, and buying very expensive custom made buses. Both cars and buses (and taxpayers) win that way.

    As for bike traffic, I’m not sure bike lanes would be a good fit on a 6-lane road with car and bus traffic. Maybe a calmer parallel street would be a better choice for a bike lane.

  10. I don’t know what traffic engineering school Mr. Iacobucci attended, but he has to go back for a refresher course. Even NEW MATH wouldn’t support his theory that a 50% decrease in traffic lanes would only reduce traffic volume by 4%. Kindergarteners wouldn’t be fooled. This has all the ear marks of the classic “Speed Camera Shuffle”,”the “Parking Meter Lease Fox Trot” or the “Red Light Camera Tango”. Sorry, but my dance card is already full…

  11. saucexx says:

    Have we already forgotten about the State Street Mall debacle? The city closed traffic to vehicles other than buses and taxis and just about killed commercial activity on the street. This plan is not much better. Between this, the new LSD planning, revenue cameras up the wazoo and the continued push for road “diets”, why would any business or family want to move here? This quixotic quest to turn the city into a paradise for google and tech employed hipsters is beyond me.

    I’m all for safer streets, better public transportation and greener options. The problem is the mental giants in charge have decided the answer is bicycles, buses and ticket cameras. You know which countries have decided bicycles and buses are the solutions to their problems, THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES. Our current L system was designed in the 19th century. How about updating our train system for 21 century needs? We should be talking about a subway underneath Ashland, not pushing more business out of the city with this stupid BRT plan. I have lost faith that anything coming out of City Hall these days is well thought out. Rahm’s “gut” feelings don’t mean squat.

  12. Jeff says:

    sauce:

    Not sure digging an Ashland subway is economical or even necessary (with the Red Line just blocks away).

    But then again, other big cities are digging new subways, to deal with long-standing transit issue. New York’s Second Avenue subway is an example of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Avenue_Subway

    But note that the Second Avenue subway is currently not fully funded, and its completion date is undetermined. Not sure a city as dead-ass-broke as Chicago could go down that road/tunnel.

    Perhaps what we need (rather than the dubious Ashland BRT mega-project) is more brainpower to leverage our current infrastructure, to make it work smarter for all commuters (not just bikers).

  13. saucexx says:

    Jeff,

    An Ashland subway was already on the the drawing board to create a circle line:

    http://www.chicago-l.org/plans/CircleLine.html

    Ironically enough we used to have an L line that ran up Paulina, called the Paulina connector that ended at Milwaukee. When they built the blue line subway they took it out. Such far sighted thinking…. The current problem with our L system is that all of the lines funnel into the loop. It was designed in the 19th century to funnel workers to their jobs. Those days are over.

    Do you think the BRT plan is free? The last I heard it was $300 million. I’m sure restoring the express buses routes would be cheaper than that. And saying the City is broke is a red herring. Funding can be found if the desire was there. The TIF funds skimmed away almost $500 million dollars last year. That’s money that gets doled out to City Hall Cronies. This would also be the ideal project for Rahm’s Infrastructure Trust, assuming of course that the Trust is not another way to rip off Chicagoans (your mileage may vary).

    How about Street Cars? That has to be cheaper than a subway and comparable to a BRT. How about utilizing the center flower “pots” better. There’s a whole wasted lane right there. How much in lost tax revenue is it going to cost when businesses get fed up and leave. There’s a lot of business that use trucks still on that route. This is such a stupid and wasteful plan it’s ridiculous it’s being pushed down our throats. And as already been mentioned, the neighbors who live a block or two off of Ashland are going to be real upset with the increased traffic they’re going to see on their blocks.

  14. Jeff says:

    sauce:

    Great info!!

    Obviously what needs to happen in Chicago is to:

    (1) assess the various assets of our current transportation infrastructure;

    (2) make a determination of how those assets can be leveraged to improve transit across the city; and

    (3) get a realistic, balls-out, audit of city budgets/finance (including TIF funds), so that waste/fraud can be eliminated and we can figure out how much the city could actually spend on new transit projects. (Note that city borrowing may be a non-starter, give the recent triple downgrade of Chicago’s credit rating by Moody’s).

  15. B says:

    The design clearly follows the long standing program of making driving more and more painful. This anti-car transportation agenda’s end goal is from what I can see to eliminate the private automobile from anyone who is not wealthy or politically connected. It simply has to be done slowly so people just give up on driving on their own, not realizing the high level plan involved.

    Hopefully I’ll still be able to bike tens of miles in my old age, that is if bicycling is even still allowed and not considered an undo cost risk to the socialized health care plans.

  16. Jeff says:

    Locals along the Ashland corridor are starting to realize how the Ashland BRT will mangle local traffic:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130812/wicker-park/ashland-express-bus-group-warns-most-left-turns-will-be-eliminated

  17. David says:

    A few eggs must be broken for progress. The elimination of left turns is important to improve traffic flow. The left turns are one of the major reasons for delays in the left traffic lane. Trucks will quickly adjust, shifting to Western Avenue and coming down to Ashland only at the point where their turn off of Ashland will be a right turn. I lived in a place that has banned left turns in many cases (and I have family that still lives there) and it doesn’t take that long to adjust to this. Progress does not happen without someone’s ox being gored.

  18. Jeff says:

    “A few eggs must be broken for progress. The elimination of left turns is important to improve traffic flow.”

    Any traffic design that will require drivers to:

    (1) go four blocks out of their way; and

    (2) make three right turns (instead of one left turn), at nearly every intersection for a stretch of hundreds of city blocks,

    is definitely not “progress.”

    It is an absolute failure to adequately address traffic concerns.

    Turning nearly every intersection of Ashland Avenue into a Rubik’s cube flies in the face of every principle of traffic engineering.

    The whole BRT concept for Ashland Avenue should be either completely redesigned, or scrapped altogether.

  19. David says:

    Ups would disagree. They work out routes to eliminate left turns recognizing what they do o traffic flow. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/09/magazine/09left-handturn.html

  20. Jeff says:

    “Ups would disagree. They work out routes to eliminate left turns recognizing what they do o traffic flow.”

    It certainly does make sense for UPS trucks to plan out their routes to eliminate left turns that cause them to be delayed.

    But comparing what makes sense for UPS drivers with what makes sense for an ordinary motorist on Ashland Boulevard is like comparing apples and cannon balls.

    Barring left turns for the ordinary driver along the proposed Ashland BRT route would CREATE delay, rather than reduce it. A driver would need to travel 4 blocks, with three right turns, to be able to enter the street where left turn access is prohibited. And of course, making drivers go around the block, through four additional intersections, thousands of times a day, at every left turn intersection, would result in:

    (1) increased risk of accidents, with many more intersection crossings; and

    (2) increased gas usage/pollution with the additional driving/idling time.

  21. David says:

    The thing about left turns is that, without left turn lanes that allow ALL Of the cars that want to turn left to get in that lane, they cause the cars behind them to be delayed. And cars turning left at lights often do so in the yellow/red portion of the light (even when they have an arrow at the start of the light) delaying the movement of the cars from the other directions. Eliminating Left Turns means that the travel lane is not impeded by someone waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic. Honolulu has banned left turns on Kapiolani Blvd, for example, for many years and the net result is that it flows well and the users of the street plan accordingly. Yes, if you plot your route to have left turn, you have to make three rights to make that turn, but that’s simply poor route planning. In virtually every case you have multiple routes to take you to the destination. With proper planning, you don’t have to turn left. In fact, I hate left turns and I normally plan my route to do just that… avoid left turns… its not that hard.

    UPS will tell you it results in decreased gas usage.. not that anyone that so violently opposes mass transit really cares about this…

  22. Jeff says:

    “The thing about left turns is that, without left turn lanes that allow ALL Of the cars that want to turn left to get in that lane, they cause the cars behind them to be delayed. And cars turning left at lights often do so in the yellow/red portion of the light (even when they have an arrow at the start of the light) delaying the movement of the cars from the other directions. Eliminating Left Turns means that the travel lane is not impeded by someone waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic. Honolulu has banned left turns on Kapiolani Blvd, for example, for many years and the net result is that it flows well and the users of the street plan accordingly. Yes, if you plot your route to have left turn, you have to make three rights to make that turn, but that’s simply poor route planning. In virtually every case you have multiple routes to take you to the destination. With proper planning, you don’t have to turn left. In fact, I hate left turns and I normally plan my route to do just that… avoid left turns… its not that hard.

    UPS will tell you it results in decreased gas usage.. not that anyone that so violently opposes mass transit really cares about this…”

    _______________________

    While a driver could devote all his free time to planning left turn free driving trips, that is simply not realistic. Motorists will need to make left turns in order to navigate the area without doing a traffic roundabout.

    While a UPS driver might save gas over the course of a day making fewer left turns, the motorist who has to do a 360 degree manuever to make a turn is doing nothing but wasting gas and time (and increasing the risk of accidents by having to make 5 intersection crossings instead of one).

    If the current BRT design prevents cars from turning left, in addition to compressing 2 lanes of car traffic into one lane, that design is fundamentally flawed.

    The decision to ban left turn lanes was made by CDOT/CTA in order to avoid delaying the BRT buses. It had nothing to do with improving traffic flow in the one remaining vehicle lane. To the contrary, from beginning to end, the BRT design has given little or no consideration to the needs of motorists who use Ashland Avenue, nor the residents and business located along Ashland Avenue. As a result, the fact that local opposition groups are starting to form can hardly be a surprise to CDOT.

  23. Jeff says:

    “Honolulu has banned left turns on Kapiolani Blvd, for example, for many years and the net result is that it flows well and the users of the street plan accordingly.”

    You neglect to mention the reason why Honolulu took the extreme measure of banning left turns on Kapi’olani Boulevard. In the mid 2000s, Kapi’olani had the highest accident rate of any major street in the Honolulu area.

    By contrast, in a recent Sun Times survey of the 20 most dangerous intersections in the Chicago area, not a single intersection in that list was located on Ashland Avenue.

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