Ashland BRT Gets Some Pushback At Wednesday’s Open House

The CTA's Joe Iacobucci talks to an attendee at Wednesday's Ashland BRT open house at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse.

The CTA’s Joe Iacobucci talks to an attendee at Wednesday’s Ashland BRT open house at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse.

CTA and city transportation officials faced a large crowd armed with many questions and healthy doses of skepticism at an open house for the Ashland Bus Rapid Transit project Wednesday night.

Officials and staff members from the CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation enjoyed a relatively smaller, friendlier and supportive turnout the previous night at a south side open house.

But this time around 120 people showed up at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse last night and many attendees came out to voice criticism and concern over the proposed $160 million project–and in some instances, tempers flared between supporters and detractors of the plan.

The BRT plan calls for center running express CTA buses running from 31st Street to Cortland Avenue in its first phase, with it ultimately being stretched from 95th Street to Irving Park Road. With stops every half mile, boarding from the middle of the street, traffic signal prioritization which would extend green lights for the buses, speeds for BRT riders would dramatically increase.

But with the current plan to remove a lane of traffic in each direction, a prohibition of most left turns, retention of local bus service and the possible  elimination of the ability for cars to cross Ashland at many side streets has many residents, business owners and community organizations concerned and even angry about the project.

Despite some uncomfortable and heated moments during the two hour event, most of the discussions were civil as people moved about the room viewing posters, videos and a scaled satellite map of Ashland from 95th to Irving Park Road. Many took time to leave written comments on the plan or verbalize their thoughts to a court reporter who was on hand.

Steve Jensen, President of the Bucktown Community Organization says his neighborhood group is against the plan because they believes the proposed prohibition of most left turns will bring more traffic to neighborhood streets.

“We are opposed to this flawed plan first and foremost for the ban on left turns,” said Jensen. “We definitely don’t want traffic forced onto our neighborhood streets to get around the intersections.”

Suzi Wahl, a member of the Asland-Western Coalition a group on the forefront of the anti-BRT fight, shares many of the same concerns as the BCO.

“The CTA has admitted 9,450 cars will be diverted at 755 N. Ashland daily,” says Wahl. “Where are these cars going to go and how will this traffic be mitigated? The CTA hasn’t answered these questions.”

Joe Iacoubucci, the CTA’s manager of strategic planning explained to a highly skeptical group of residents from the Ashland corridor that approximately 34,000 cars currently travel Ashland every day according to traffic studies. He estimates Ashland will have a 35%-50% decline in vehicular traffic after the project is completed explaining drivers will move onto parallel streets like Western, Damen, California, Kedzie and Halsted.

But some people loudly scoffed at Iacoubucci’s explanation of the decline in vehicle traffic.

“I think it’s going to be a heckuva lot higher than 50%!” exclaimed taxi driver Mike Stoll. “It’s going to be more like 70%. Why didn’t they talk to people who drive 12 hours a day like me? They’re crazy if they think it will divert only 35% of traffic.”

Ashland-Western Coalition member Ernie Orlando, owner of Orlando Glass & Trim located at 641 N. Ashland, also questioned the validity of the traffic reduction estimates from the CTA’s environmental assessment report.

“If you cut traffic lanes in half and take out left turns you’re going to have a big impact,” Orlando said.

Property Manager William Dahms said he understands transit has to be improved on Ashland but thinks the CTA should improve the bus service that currently exists on Ashland Avenue first.

“First of all they need to improve the current #9 bus,” said Dahms. “They should scrap this idea its just a waste of money. This is going to kill a lot of businesses along Ashland Avenue.”

But others like Jacob Peters, believes BRT could invigorate economic development along Ashland much the way areas around CTA train stops flourish.

“There are horrible vacancy rates for businesses along Ashland,” said  Peters. “I’m supportive of BRT because it could revive business on Ashland.”

Jessica Wobbekind, a member of SSA #33 says her group is generally supportive of the concept of BRT but has some concerns about this proposed plan.

“We’d like to see BRT in our neighborhood,” said Wobbekind. “We’re not against this plan be we have some questions about it.”

Currently, the Ashland bus route sees 31,00 weekday boardings. The CTA estimates an additional 5000 boardings will be added per day when BRT is fully implemented and says the demand for transit is growing along the Ashland corridor.

Despite having a brief verbal altercation with a BRT opponent near the end of the open house, Peters hoped the event will lead to some compromise on both sides of the BRT debate.

“Being completely anti-BRT is counter productive,” said Peters. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing–we can find a middle ground.”

50 Responses to Ashland BRT Gets Some Pushback At Wednesday’s Open House

  1. Jeff says:

    The CTA numbers are already sounding like bullshit. As the article notes:
    ____________________________________________________

    “The CTA has admitted 9,450 cars will be diverted at 755 N. Ashland daily,” says Wahl. “Where are these cars going to go and how will this traffic be mitigated? The CTA hasn’t answered these questions.”
    ____________________________________________________

    In 2006, the number of vehicles that pass the intersection at 755 Ashland was 30,400, according to CDOT’s own counts. Simply math tells you that if there is only half the lane space available after the BRT is installed, that means at least 15,200 cars will be diverted — 6,000 more cars than CTA admits will be diverted at that point. CTA cannot be trusted to give an accurate assessment of the impact of this project.

  2. […] 120-Plus People Showed Up for North Side BRT Hearing (Expired Meter) […]

  3. Todd says:

    If the ATA and the bikeanistas in this city would actually listen to residents instead of trying to make Chicago vehicle-free then we’d get somewhere.
    PLUS- the Ashland bus is not that crowded that it needs this radical of a change to the street.

    Just remove every other bus stop and BOOM, faster Ashland bus!!!

  4. Khwarizmi says:

    Jeff, well, it’s not a matter of simple math. Taking away 50 percent of the lanes doesn’t mean that there will still be the same amount of traffic. Some will still use it, some will take enhanced bus service, some will use other forms of transportation, and some won’t use it at all. Induced demand: look it up. It’s an interesting topic that is uniquely suited to traffic models.

  5. Matt says:

    “But some people loudly scoffed at Iacoubucci’s explanation of the decline in vehicle traffic.

    ‘I think it’s going to be a heckuva lot higher than 50%!” exclaimed taxi driver Mike Stoll. “It’s going to be more like 70%. Why didn’t they talk to people who drive 12 hours a day like me? They’re crazy if they think it will divert only 35% of traffic.’”

    Why didn’t they talk to people like you? because you are the exception and not the rule. And taxi drivers are probably not statisticians. And remember a bus carries ~80 people, a car is typically 1 or 2. So 70% reduction in vehicle traffic is NOT a 70% reduction is people movement.

  6. Z28 says:

    What’s the penalty for driving in the BRT lane? Rush hour is already gridlocked on Ashland, is everyone really going to be willing to sit in traffic right next to an empty lane?

  7. Jeff says:

    There is no penalty yet established for driving in the BRT lane. If the project happens, it will probably be added to the municipal code as a new traffic violation. And you can bet that it will be camera enforced, with big time tickets. Another Rahm and Gabe shakedown for the driving public.

  8. Jeff says:

    CTA admits that 50% of the traffic that uses Ashland during rush hour will be diverted onto other parallel streets, causing traffic volume on those parallel streets to rise by up to 50%:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20131212/wicker-park/ashland-express-bus-critics-complain-of-congestion-side-street-traffic

    And yet CTA flatly denies that this will be a “Carmaggedon” for north side traffic in the Ashland corridor. I wish I had their ability to ignore reality. It would make getting through winter a whole lot easier.

  9. Alan Robinson says:

    @Jeff
    “Simply math tells you that if there is only half the lane space available after the BRT is installed, that means at least 15,200 cars will be diverted – See more at: http://theexpiredmeter.com/2013/12/ashland-brt-gets-some-pushback-at-wednesdays-open-house/#sthash.hkuDyuQU.dpuf

    Actually, it means at MOST around 14000 cars or ~45% will be diverted. A single lane has slightly over half the capacity of two lanes. Some of the remaining cars will tolerate slightly higher congestion, so 35% diversion number makes sense. In fact, it’s a conservative estimate as it doesn’t count converting car trips to other modes or to other destinations. CTA got the modeling right.

  10. Jeff says:

    Alan Robinson says:

    Actually, it means at MOST around 14000 cars or ~45% will be diverted. A single lane has slightly over half the capacity of two lanes. Some of the remaining cars will tolerate slightly higher congestion, so 35% diversion number makes sense. In fact, it’s a conservative estimate as it doesn’t count converting car trips to other modes or to other destinations. CTA got the modeling right.

    My comment:

    CTA admits that 50% of the traffic that uses Ashland during rush hour will be diverted onto other parallel streets, causing traffic volume on those parallel streets to rise by up to 50%:

    http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20131212/wicker-park/ashland-express-bus-critics-complain-of-congestion-side-street-traffic#sthash.XypVvuJn.dpuf

    To the extent you hold CTA to its own admission (that 50% of the traffic that uses Ashland during rush hour will be diverted onto other parallel streets), that spells rush hour traffic nightmare.

    Moreover, it is unclear whether rush hour traffic diversion will be even greater, since the local Ashland bus will still be using the same lane as the other vehicles. If the local bus operation causes a “conga line” of traffic to stop every 2 blocks, the rate of diversion at rush hour could end up being even higher than anyone anticipates, as even more drivers give up on Ashland as a viable commuting route.

    Plus, if you add in the effect of:

    (1) “no left turns” off of Ashland Avenue; and

    (2) street crossing barriers at BRT platform intersections,

    the diversion of traffic from Ashland Avenue could rise yet higher still.

  11. The Watcher says:

    If you really want bus rapid transit then build an elevated traffic lane. If you’re not willing (or able) to spend the money to really make traffic better then STFU CDOT…..

  12. Les says:

    What is CDOt and CTA and all their friends going to commit to do on the residential streets they want to make more congested and pedestrian unfriendly? Their total lack of concern for the residents on side streets is appalling.
    Same for the businesses they will hinder. Who are the people pushing this insane idea?

  13. B says:

    Les:
    http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/newsroom/rockefeller-foundation-announces-1-2m
    “In Chicago, the Foundation has been supporting the city’s efforts to develop a city-wide BRT system for several years. Chicago has the potential to build and operate the first gold-standard BRT (based on the BRT Standard) in the U.S. in its Western/Ashland Corridor.”

    The side street effects will be a demonstration of the principle that no small group or individual can know everything about a complex system composed of the decisions of a large group people. I foresee various behaviors becoming normal, and I doubt these will be all of them.

    Where left turns are blocked people will make right turns and then a U-turn. Another substitute left will be to turn left where it is allowed and then take a N-S side street. Yet another will be to turn right a block or more early then use side streets to get to the desired street and turn left on it. This will result in traffic volumes in places it shouldn’t be. Some people will try to make up time by going too fast and running lights and stop signs. The city will respond with cameras and speed humps and forbidding turns and making one way streets. Drivers will then adjust resulting in even less desirable conditions. Then another round of restrictions, enforcements, etc.

    Drivers will be blamed, not the mis-engineering of the road system as always. If drivers only obeyed, only did what our rulers demanded everything will be fine. The blame will go to drivers’ failure to obey authority. Force and punishments will be applied to make them obey.

  14. Jeff says:

    Khwarizmi says:

    Jeff, well, it’s not a matter of simple math. Taking away 50 percent of the lanes doesn’t mean that there will still be the same amount of traffic. Some will still use it, some will take enhanced bus service, some will use other forms of transportation, and some won’t use it at all. Induced demand: look it up. It’s an interesting topic that is uniquely suited to traffic models.

    My comment:

    The theory you are referrring to, also called the theory of evaporating or disappearing traffic, holds that removing road space will actually reduce traffic congestion.

    This theory, however, has not been proven with any degree of certainty, epsecially not in the US. Indeed, US major cities may be much less likely to exhibit this phenomenon, since:

    (1) percentage of car ownership is much higher in the US;

    (2) US commuters are much more dependent on cars to reach remote/transit inaccesible job locations; and

    (3) US consumers pay much less for gas than other western nations, thus making gas prices less of an incentive to switch from car to transit for commuting, especially if transit commuting is not convenient.

    At best, this is an unproven theory that leads to erroneous conclusions about traffic projects. At worst, it is a results oriented dogma, intended to further ideological notions about “green transportation,” rather than sound principles of traffic engineering.

  15. V says:

    This is a bad idea. Ashland is the only 4 lane street close to the lake that goes all the way from the south side to the north side. Its too important a thoroughfare to eliminate car traffic, esp. In light of the desired ” traffic calming” on lake shore drive. As another reviewer stated, many people still need to drive in order to reach job sites that are not located near public transportation. To reduce the current 4 lanes that ashland provides will cripple the north side and add significant gridlock. How about expanding Metra Stops within city limits and adding appropriate connecting bus routes? Logic seems to be missing here. I have lived here for 40 years and have a clue. How about raising city’s minimum wage so workers can afford to live closer to their workplace? How about offering incentives for the development of apartment buildings near major public transport routes? There are many alternatives to current congestion issues than the one proposed here.

  16. Ashland Resident says:

    Ill conceived and utterly un-needed. Why they don’t consider using the articulated buses the currently possess and running them in an express manner every other time is beyond me. Does anyone remember how successful the “mall” was in the loop? This is a very flawed idea.

  17. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Alan,

    The way Iacoubucci explained it was that 35% of off peak traffic would be diverted and up to 50% of rush hour traffic could be diverted. Obviously these are all estimates or even guestimates at this point.

    But even using the lower number, 35%, that’s still a decent chunk of traffic that’s expected to be pushed off Ashland–approximately 10,000 cars a day. I think the point many of us are making is that it’s a significant number and it will have ramifications.

  18. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    B-

    You are essentially laying out a scenario that assumes drivers will react somewhat like the marketplace.

    Individuals/drivers will always look for ways to circumvent obstacles to improve the speed of their trips. And I agree, there are unforeseen ramifications if the BRT becomes reality. I’m sure you’ll see many more U-turns, driving through alleyways, 3 point turns in people’s driveways or just cruising through side streets in these areas.

  19. B says:

    I have to be a stickler here. In the USA gasoline, the product itself, costs about the same as it does in europe give or take, maybe somewhat less due to better distribution methods and infrastructure. Just like most other goods. The taxes on gasoline are much higher in europe. European nations tax gasoline heavily for a number of political reasons including trying to keep regular people using transit. If american political office holders weren’t afraid of angry pitchforks and torches mobs over the issue of fuel taxes they’d put a $4/gallon tax on gasoline before morning.

    Taxes, including those on fuel, are supporting transit, so this price decision being made by people is in an artificial environment largely controlled by limits of taxation people will put up with before they push back. Transit prices can only drop and driving costs rise only as far as political office holders can increase taxes without being tarred and feathered. That’s the real limiting factor on getting people out of their cars in this respect. Thankfully gasoline taxes is one of the few things americans will still get angry over and push back on.

  20. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Jeff,

    There seems to be a movement of people in this country that have problems with the facts you just laid out.

    1-Many openly scorn car ownership. The more safety technology or regulations (like CAFE standards) the government imposes on auto manufacturers, the more expensive vehicles become and therefore becomes less affordable for people to own cars.

    2-Others believe, in order to discourage people from driving, that gas prices must be increased either through taxes, regulation of the oil industry, prohibiting new and safe technologies like fracking and dictatorially stopping projects like the Keystone Pipeline. Higher gas prices discourage driving.

    But vehicles provide mobility and, perhaps most importantly, through this mobility allow workers, especially poor people a greater ability to find work.

    For some reason, some people don’t like the freedom and independence that motor vehicles give individuals. Life would be better if we all took public transit they say. Unfortunately, that lemming like mentality is intellectually hollow and perhaps even paternalistic or even tyrannical. Personally, I don’t like it when others want to impose their beliefs on me.

  21. Jeff says:

    Geek:

    I think you and I would agree that the market is the best way for inddiduals to make their own transit choices. Using reduction of road space, as a tool to further an ideological interest in so-called “green” energy, distorts the market and makes it less efficient. This leads to misallocation of capital and resources in the transportation sector. Of course, ideologcal and political ends have been the driving force behnd Rahm Emanuel and Gabe Klein’s war on cars, to the detriment of those of us who drive to work every day.

  22. B says:

    Geek, Jeff,
    We are seeing the results of many years of effort by those who benefit from a society where people don’t have mobility other than what is allowed by the political and economic power structure. It’s been decades of public relations and schooling to get here.

    I don’t know how well read on these subjects either of you are, I am getting the feeling you both know quite a bit either by investigation, gut feel, or both. However I am hesitant to present certain things as I’ve alienated people just dropping what I’ve learned on them.

    Things like the BRT, anti-car movements, and such are from what I can see all parts of a bigger vision of dense, compact cities, limited mobility, and very regulated/controlled lives. A vision much like that shown in the HG Wells’ film “Things to Come”. People are slowly being conditioned to accept, to want, to live with less space and less mobility to avoid the failure of previous attempts.

  23. Jeff says:

    B

    Of course increased government control fosters more opportunity for public corruption/theft of taxpayer funds, leading to the “kleptocracy” that exists today in Chicago.

  24. PKDickman says:

    The biggest problem is that they passed up the most feasable BRT proposal (curbside running on Western) for this one, when the only advantage it has is the disruption of traffic.
    Western curbside Ashland center running
    Bus speed 15.6mph 15.9mph
    Increase in boardings 9549 new riders 8440 new riders
    Average wait for late bus 39secs 22secs
    Pedestrian space 30ft 43 ft (inc 14ft station)
    Traffic capacity lost 0% 50%
    Cost 110 million 165 million

  25. Jeff says:

    PKDickman says:

    The biggest problem is that they passed up the most feasable BRT proposal (curbside running on Western) for this one, when the only advantage it has is the disruption of traffic.

    ________________________________________________

    Unfortunately, a curbside running BRT is not feasible, since the parking meter lease would require the city to pay for every space taken out of service, for the next 70 years.

    Of course, somehow the city magically found the money to pay for the 60 parking spaces that will be lost, when Wrigley Field’s walls are expanded outward to swallow the parking lanes along Sheffield and Waveland. When it comes to subsidizing sports facilities for wealthy owners (DePaul University, the Chicago Cubs), money is no object. When it comes to police, schools, and other things that benefit non-millionaires — money suddenly can’t be found.

  26. PKDickman says:

    There are only 532 pay and display spots on all of Western.
    Even if we lost half of them, LAZ could easily be paid off by increasing their holdings on the cross streets.

  27. Jeff says:

    PKDickman:

    If there is a way to create a curbside BRT lane on Western (or Ashland), leaving four lanes open for traffic (and eliminating the need to ban left turns or erect street barriers, as proposed for the center running Ashland BRT), that would remove most of my objections to a BRT line.

    Of course a curbside lane might need some additional things to make it work, such as:

    (1) making the curb lane “BRT bus only” during rush hour; and

    (2) making all BRT stops past the intersection (rather than before), so that cars turning right can get out of the way faster and allow the BRT to make its stop without excessive delay;

    (3) priority signaling, to minimize conflicts between the BRT and other traffic.

  28. saucexx says:

    Curbside BRT sounds exactly like a well run bus route.

    If the CTA and CDOT would simply expand service on the current Ashland bus route, there’d be no need for this boondoggle. Quite frankly the real need for something like this is east-west anyway. Take the concept and adapt it to Fullerton Ave and we’d all be better off. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean remove car lanes and restrict left turns there either. Personally I’d spend the money on a subway underneath Ashland. That would improve train service, expand mass transit and not impact the use of the street.

    PTG,

    Even if the CTA’s numbers are correct, just because 35-50% of traffic gets “diverted” doesn’t mean it will disappear and it doesn’t mean Ashland will open up to the traffic that remains. I can’t see how this plan won’t effectively shut down Ashland in addition to slowing down neighboring streets, particularly during rush hour.

    BTW what happened to the “traffic will only be reduced by 4%” BS.

  29. Jeff says:

    sauce:

    Curbside BRT works fairly well in New York, on First and Second Avenue. No reason it couldn’t work here, and maintain the four travel lanes (assuming the parking meter issue could be dealt with).

  30. ds says:

    What in the world does this have to do with being pro-car or anti-car? The facts are that 1. Rapid-transit demand is growing, 2. There are currently zero cross-town routes available to rapid transit riders, and 3. Drivers have multiple cross-routes available, all of which are way faster than taking the local bus.

    The bottom line is, no matter how bad BRT might make it for drivers on Ashland Ave., I can gaurantee you it will never be worse than what bus riders have to deal with every day.

    BRT might impose a cost on people who drive to work, but then again, if it shifts demand enough, it might not. But either way this is not an argument. Roads are public goods! **Anybody** who uses the road must necessecarily impose a cost on **all** others. So will BRT make your auto-commute worse? Sure, but everyone else who drives is **already** making your auto-commute worse, and you are making everyone else’s commute worse at the same time! So the real question, as always, is about balance, and given the low cost and the multiple alternatives available to drivers, BRT makes perfect sense.

  31. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    PKDickman,

    Just to clarify, do you mean parking spots/spaces or Pay and Display meters (machines)?

    Also, where/how did you find this information? That’s good data dude!

  32. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Jeff, etal,

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot.

    The deep divisions the proponents/opponents of Ashland BRT are experiencing is really due to the parking meter lease deal.

    That deal has screwed us AGAIN! This is one of the unforeseen consequences Ald. Waguespack was warning about back in 2008.

    In order to do a project like the Ashland BRT, you need the flexibility to take out parking spaces or at least move them easily.

    But, due to the meter lease deal–we CAN’T!!! We’re handcuffed.

    If we had just some flexibility with parking, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be fighting each other on this project. We’d probably be able to retain travel lanes or be able to come up with a plan that works better than the current one on the table.

  33. PKDickman says:

    Geek writes:

    Just to clarify, do you mean parking spots/spaces or Pay and Display meters (machines)?

    Also, where/how did you find this information? That’s good data dude!

    Those are spaces. There are 3738 free spaces, 532 pay and display spaces, 99 loading zones and 1 disabled.
    The cross streets have 7075 free spaces and 192 p&d
    I got that information off their Environmental Impact report They did an existing parking survey.

    There were originally four options listed Ashland and Western

    It was their plan for curbside running BRT with removal of the median and one lane of parking.
    On most of Western the median is painted on the asphalt and the street is lined with stripmalls and highschools. There is plenty of off street parking.
    For the most part it would fit inside the existing cartway. They could have set up a test run from Lawrence to Addison for the cost of restriping the pavement.

    All of this at 2/3 the cost. Four traffic lanes, same bus speed, same number of connections, more new passengers, difference in schedule reliability measured in seconds.
    Frankly, I thought that it was such good plan that I thought they would have to be lunatics to choose something else.

    But they chose center running on Ashland.

  34. Jeff says:

    - “Traffic calming” zig zag streets that create hazards for motorists.

    Simply put, the Ashland BRT, as currently proposed, is just the latest example of drivers getting the shaft from this Mayor and his Transportation Commissioner. This deliberate pattern of giving short shrift to the interests of motorists explains a lot of the anger and opposition over the Ashland BRT project.

  35. Jeff says:

    ds:

    Why is this an anti-car issue> Because the Ashland BRT plan, as poroposed, is just the latest example of Rahm Emanuel and Gabe Klein’s war on cars, including:

    - Taking away car lanes for bikes

    - Blanketing the city with speed cameras

    - Setting red light cameras with the least possible yellow light interval

    - Road diets that snarl traffic in commercial areas

    - Taking away parking spots for Divvy bike stands and people spots

    - Tying up loop car traffic with a scramble intersection at State and Jackson

    - Taking away lanes for car traffic in the Loop with a BRT route

    - Traffic calming” zig zag streets that create hazards for motorists.

    Simply put, the Ashland BRT, as currently proposed, is just the latest example of drivers getting the shaft from this Mayor and his Transportation Commissioner. This deliberate pattern of giving short shrift to the interests of motorists explains a lot of the anger and opposition over the Ashland BRT project.

  36. Jeff says:

    Geek:

    Correct – the parking meter deal has a lot to do with the current debates over how to allocate road space.

    And remember that our Ballerina in Chief, Mayor Emanuel, essentially ratified this parking fiasco by ramming a revised deal through the City Council (which made the deal worse in several respects).

    Not only that, Mayor Twinkletoes actually refused to join a legal challenge to the parking meter lease. He even instructed the City’s lawyers to file a brief defending that deal in court.

    So whatever the impact of the parking meter catastrophe, Mayor Emanuel now owns the blame for it.

  37. Allan Mellis says:

    Ashland BRT Concerns
    December 11, 2013

    I am a supporter of public transportation, but like a number of Alderman I have a number of concerns about the Ashland BRT proposal. Hopefully, the following concerns can be addressed.

    1. Single lane traffic will be stopped by:
    a. Double parked delivery trucks;
    b. Cars parallel parking by backing into spaces;
    c. Non-BRT buses that don’t pull all the way to the curb at bus stops;
    d. Repair crews closing a lane to traffic;
    e. Cars that can’t park close to the curb in winter due to piles of snow.
    2. If barriers are installed to prevent left turns, emergency vehicle response times will be negatively impacted.
    3. Elimination of left hand turns will result in additional truck traffic on local residential streets.
    4. With 35 percent less traffic on Ashland, there will be additional vehicular traffic on already congested adjacent arterials including Clybourn (that was not included in the Environmental Assessment).
    5. There will be potential traffic bottlenecks at six way intersections.
    6. The Cortland Viaduct will be a pinch point and the funding to address the improvement is the responsibility of Metra and not included in this project’s funding.
    7. Bicyclists will not use alternative routes, which will result in additional conflicts with other vehicles with a potential for more accidents on an already unsafe Ashland Avenue.
    8. There will be a negative impact on truck deliveries due to no left turns and insufficient loading zones.
    9. There will be a reduction in the number of customers going to Ashland businesses when no left turns are allowed (e.g. the new Target at Belmont and the new Mariano’s at Webster)?
    10. There may be a negative impact on businesses due to the reduction of 35 percent vehicle traffic on Ashland that will not be made up by BRT.
    11. The Environmental Assessment Traffic Analysis is not as good as an actual pilot of having only one lane of traffic with left turns prohibited.
    12. The decreased bus travel times that have been estimated will not be obtained and the increased vehicle travel times will be worse.
    13. Occasional Ashland Avenue drivers and truck drivers will make illegal left turns in front of BRT lanes.
    14. Left turn signage, either prohibiting or allowing left turns will be inadequate.
    15. There will not be any place to pile snow after a heavy snowfall.

  38. B says:

    DS, Jeff was specific so I’ll be quick and general. It seems that there is a political anti-driving agenda that uses bicycling, transit, and more as excuses to push it forward. It can be seen in the programs which seem to go out of their way to deliver substandard results or worse to maximize the harm they do to driving.

  39. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    PKDickman,

    Wow…GOOD stuff!

    I have just not had the time to look over the EI report.

    Quick thoughts. The total number of metered spaces seems low for 16 miles of major street (I’m assuming the proposed Western BRT also ran from 95th to Irving). I’m not saying the report is wrong, I just would have guessed that number was larger. And that’s based on nothing but a guestimate.

    My guess is, you are/were a supporter of the Western BRT.

    And from your summaries, it certainly seems like Western would have been a superior choice.

    Thank you for all the great info.

  40. Jeff says:

    Geek, PKDickman:

    Why is it that the City rejected a Western avenue BRT, which would have satisfied:

    1. transit advocates (by allowing faster north south travel by bus)

    AND

    2. motorists (by maintaining a valuable four lane commuter route across town).

    It seems that City Hall feels the compulsive need to demonize motorists and enact a punitive series of measures against them, in order to galvanize support for City Hall’s agenda.

  41. PKDickman says:

    Geek,

    Re, Parking count.
    That number is probably right. It represents about 10 blocks (both sides) of parking spaces. I would be willing to bet that before negotiations started on the lease deal, the number of metered blocks on Western was closer to zero.

    I am a reasonably Pro-transit guy, but I think they should put the streetcars back in and charge a nickel.

    BRT sounds like a good notion and the Western proposal sounded like a shoe-in to me and I felt that it did not need my support.
    The Ashland idea is nuts. My only hope is that it is all some scheme to jerk a bunch of grant money out of the Feds.

  42. saucexx says:

    PK,

    I’m sold, when do we get Western BRT? I’m in for street cars too. Your one paragraph sounds more reasonable, sane and practical than all of the BS coming out of City Hall combined. This is how progress is supposed to work, you incorporate better ideas that aren’t at the expense of what’s already working. Heck the more I think about it the more I like it. Expand that to Fullerton as well and we might be onto something.

    If the Western BRT is 2/3 of the cost of the Ashland plan, anybody want to calculate if paying LAZ to remove the Western meters would come close to the other 1/3 savings? If it does then the overall cost is going to be the same regardless of which street they pick.

  43. Karen says:

    The railroad viaduct between Grand and Lake is too narrow to support 2 lanes of traffic (think bus and truck), yet the CTA has no plans/funding to widen railroad viaducts. You only have to travel north during rush hour to see how much traffic is backed up because of this (the same is true for Western Ave.).

    Along with the other lane blockers listed, add paratransit vehicles, which are required to wait for passengers. Wheelchair users can take 10-15 minutes for loading, as the chairs must be strapped down. Passengers who used canes or other walking aids also take time to be seated. Not everyone has a handicapped loading zone, so can you imagine the traffic jams that will occur?

  44. Larry Garner says:

    The data presented by proponents of the BRT is a big part of the mystification and deceptive salesmanship that’s going on here. They like to cite data showing the savings in time over long distances; for example, a ride on the ol’ #9 will take you 82 minutes to travel between Ashland & Fullerton and Ashland and 79th; but with the spiffy BRT you can make that trip in just 43 minutes. Such a deal!! But does anyone really travel regularly between Ashland and Fullerton and Ashland and 79th? There just isn’t much reason to go to those particular intersections, though you might go to Fullerton & Ashland on your way to DePaul. But if that were the case, this phantom rider would take the 79th St. bus to the Red Line, and not be bothered waiting for the pokey Fullerton Ave. bus for the transfer ride to DPU. It’s only by citing travel speeds point-to-point along Ashland that this project appears to provide a significant savings in time.
    Fact is that most riders of public transportation on Ashland use it for short- to intermediate distances–major destinations for masses of people within a quarter mile of the line are very few. On the CTA’s own map of “Points of Interest” it is remarkable that over the stretch of nearly 17 miles along the proposed BRT Ashland line, there are only 3 sites (U. of I. Med Center, Nat. Museum of Mexican Art, and Polish Museum of America) that are not more than 1/3 mile away from the nearest bus stop–and each of those sites is currently served by a nearby r.t. stop (the UI Med Ctr, by 2). Nor does the Ashland corridor possess a major concentration of locations where people work. It’s safe, then, to say that very few riders take the Ashland bus for long distances (more than 3 miles). The most common use of the bus is not to reach a destination along Ashland, but to reach a transfer point–another bus line or r.t. stop; and those trips are not going to be long-distance, for the most part. The savings in time to riders with a BRT line in place compared to the old Ashland Express are simply not that great: 2 min./1 mile; 4 min/ 2 miles/6 min./3 miles. It’s true that if you live within walking distance of Ashland, you’d gain something for a long-distance ride, but otherwise most people traveling to a place on Ashland far from their home would catch an e-w bus or an r.t line that intersects with Ashland, and then take the bus for a distance that’s less than 3 miles. If their intersection point with Ashland still left them with a long distance to travel, chances are they’d seek out the nearest r.t. line rather than mess with the BRT–there are 11 r.t. stations that intersect with Ashland (3 Brown, 2 Blue, 3 Pink, 1 Orange, & 2 Green).
    The “car-free” vision of BRT proponents displays insensitivity to the reality of many Chicagoans’ everyday lives: families who have to ferry children around to scattered destinations; working people who commute to suburban workplaces in locations that are not accessible by mass transit; small business-owners who depend on local routes for deliveries and services; the elderly and people with disabilities who cannot get around easily other than by car, especially in wintry weather. These folks are long-time residents and they do not want to be forced out of the city by the misconceived schemes of city planners whose reference group consists largely of Mac-owning, omni-bicycling, tablet-deploying-on-subway-cars young professionals. Oh, and one more point/question: Has anyone run across someone at these meetings who supports the BRT and actually commutes a long distance on it? I’m guessing not–the supporters are, for the most part, people who do not ride the #9, but people who support enhanced public transit projects just “as a matter of principle.”

  45. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Kudos Larry!

    Well said, well reasoned and very passionate.

    I think a lot of what you’re saying are things the CTA should have or needs to consider. I too get the feeling that they are trying very hard to downplay what many people, including myself, consider to be legitimate concerns.

    Thanks for the contribution.

  46. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Karen,

    These are 2 issues that completely escaped me. The viaduct issue will be a problem.

  47. Mike Stoll says:

    I was there and I was quoted in this article . I believe we are looking at an epic Train Wreck on this BRT plan . I am not opposed to improving transit . To that end I would propose the CTA put in heated shelters, pre pay boxes at he bus stops , add #9 buses and add an Express bus . This idea could be done for pennies on the dollar of this unworkable plan . Joe ( the project manager ) claims there will be a 35 % to 50 % diversion rate of vehicles off of Ashland if this goes through . Think about that using common sense instead of looking at a million dollar study that was funded by the CTA with the hope and intent that is would support the building of this project . One lane ONLY would be shared by #9 bus Semi’s Delivery Trucks UPS FED EX Bikes Rickshaws and of course Cars . The Lane they share will be alongside the Parked cars . So what happens when the 9 bus stops ? What happens when a car wants to park ? what happens when UPS double parks throws the flashers on and dude runs out of the truck with 5 packages ? Of course in all of those instances that Traffic STOPS . No one other the BRT will find that street usable and most will find alternates like side streets and every other avenue that runs parallel . The Problem in that is they wont be able to cross the backed up East West Streets that will be bumper to Bumper trying to cross Ashland because of the BRT . The people who did the E A did NOT consult a single person who drives in this City . Their study is as flawed as the BRT itself . It must be stopped or the City as a whole will be negatively impacted .

  48. Mike Stoll says:

    By the way every single comment thread I have seen on tis issue is overwhelmingly against . That should tell you something .

  49. Pete says:

    Hopefully the Ashland BRT fiasco will receive enough pushback to push it into the dustbin of bad ideas. The only hope of this happening would be to somehow dry up the federal funding they are counting on. Once this happens, Chicago politicians will drop the idea like a hot potato.

    These projects aren’t much fun for politicians if there aren’t millions of dollars of other peoples’ money to spread around to connected friends and family.

  50. saucexx says:

    Mike, Karen and Larry,

    Thumbs up. Those are all new insights and I can only imagine how many more are out there once you really pick this dumb plan apart. Larry, you really struck a nerve. Those “Mac-owning, omni-bicycling, tablet-deploying-on-subway-cars young professionals” (and I’ll add probably single) don’t understand what the other 99% of the city has to endure to live here. If they did we might actually get some improvements that add to our quality of life.

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