Ashland BRT Supporters Show Up In Big Numbers At Tuesday’s Open House

Attendees of the Ashland BRT Open House Tuesday night write thoughts on a large map of the proposed route.

Attendees of the Ashland BRT Open House Tuesday night write thoughts on a large map of the proposed route.

The weather was bitingly cold, but hardy supporters of the Ashland Bus Rapid Transit plan showed up in solid numbers Tuesday night at Juarez High School, 1450 W. Cermak Road for a CTA sponsored open house.

The meeting was held to solicit public input on the project, a required phases any type of public works project must go through.

The Ashland Bus Rapid Transit project envisions center running express buses between 95th Street and Irving Park Road stopping every half mile. Proponents believe this will greatly speed up travel times up and down Ashland and help spur economic development along the corridor.

However, opponents of BRT on Ashland are wary of the plan to reduce Ashland from two lanes of traffic in each direction to just one lane each way. In addition, most left turns could be eliminated and local bus service would continue to operate in the single remaining lanes.

Pro-transit group Active Transportation Alliance organized a rally at a nearby bar before the CTA’s open house and then marched the four blocks en masse to the event to show their support for the plan.

While approximately 30-50 people attended the event, supporters clearly outnumbered detractors.

But it also seemed like the number of CTA staff, city officials and other hired guns helping sell the project was on par with the number of attendees. Near the end of the two hour open house, staff with name badges easily outnumbered attendees.

Although the CTA’s Joe Iacobucci felt the turnout for the meeting was strong.

“We have a very positive turnout with lots of organizations and individuals reflecting a spectrum of views,” said Iacobucci.

CTA officials laid out a satellite view of Ashland from 95th to Irving Park Rd. with both the current status of the roadway compared to proposed changes on 20 long folding tables. Attendees were invited to write suggestions and thoughts on post it notes along the route. Other posters explaining and extolling BRT as well as informational videos were situated around the large room.

Carolyn Pomykala, who takes public transit and rides a bike to get around the city says she’s in favor of the Ashland BRT and feels some drivers are overreacting to the proposed elimination of a vehicle travel lane in both directions and a prohibition of most left hand turns.

“I feel the driving public is very smart and they will bee able to deviate their route without getting hysterical,” explained Pomykala.

A second informational open house for the Ashland BRT will be held Wednesday night from 6-8 PM at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse, 1419 W. Blackhawk.

20 Responses to Ashland BRT Supporters Show Up In Big Numbers At Tuesday’s Open House

  1. 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 95th? There just ain’t that 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. 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.
    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 utopian dreams of young bicyclists and city planners.

  2. […] BRT Supporters “Clearly Outnumbered Detractors” at Last Night’s Hearing (Expired Meter) […]

  3. Alan Robinson says:

    I had left near the end of the event and had talked to the welcome ladies. Around 110 people had showed up, not 30-50. Her feeling was that there was an even split of supporters and detractors.

  4. Jeff says:

    If you look at the most recent traffic CDOT Average Traffic Counts for Ashland Avenue (taken in 2006 and posted on CDOT’s website), those ATCs show a level of 30,000 – 40,000 plus vehicles per day, along much of Ashland Avenue on the north side.

    Here are the CDOT’s own 2006 traffic counts for addresses along North Ashland Avenue:

    755 North – 30,500
    852 North – 34,400
    1345 North – 35,000
    1629 North – 30,700
    2435 North – 40,200
    2855 North – 37,400
    3524 North – 33,800
    3625 North – 32,100
    4034 North – 33,400

    Note that all these numbers are well above the 20,000 Average Traffic Count (“ATC”), which the Federal Highway Administration says is the maximum ATC to allow a road diet (without creating unacceptable traffic congestion). These ATCs have likely increased in the 7 years since these 2006 ATC measurements were taken on Ashland Avenue.

    This volume of traffic simply cannot be jammed into half the current road space without traffic coming to a standstill at rush hour (and perhaps beyond).

    And the notion that all of this car traffic will either evaporate once the BRT is completed, or that this traffic will somehow be absorbed by/diverted to other parallel roads (already at their maximum carrying capacity at rush hour), is wishful thinking at best. The streets that parallel Ashland are already even more clogged at rush hour, especially the 2-lane streets with bus and car traffic sharing a lane.

    Unlike the First and Second Avenue BRT experience in New York, where:

    1. car traffic was diverted to wide multi-lane routes like Third Avenue, Lexington Avenue, and FDR Drive; and

    2. commuters could switch to one of the numerous parallel subway lines),

    there are no nearby parallel streets in Chicago that can alleviate the traffic fuckmare that will result from the Ashland BRT.

  5. Z28 says:

    These knuckleheads . . . Ashland is one of the few North/South streets where good speeds are possible in the city. They want to exchange cars going 45mph for a bus that goes, what, 16mph? Are they crazy? Sometimes it feels like ships passing in the night with these people because they do not understand that Chicago streets were made for cars. Some of them think somehow Chicago is going to get around on dinky little bikes or by standing in the freezing cold for a 16mph bus. Chicago Drives. Get over it — it’s the 21st Century, and we are not going back to horse buggies and bicycles.

  6. David Altenburg says:

    It was cold last night. It’ll be even colder tonight. Those “knuckleheads” braved the weather to make their opinions known where it’ll matter. But, please, stay inside where it’s warm so you can call people names on the internet.

  7. HJ says:

    “They want to exchange cars going 45mph”

    Weird, I was not aware that the speed limit on Ashland is even remotely close to 45mph.

  8. JKM says:

    The 16.8 mph is the average speed including stopping time to load/unload the bus.

    The speed limit on Ashland is 30 mph – you should follow the laws. Chicago streets were made for multiple modes, and should be re-accomodated to move the maximum number of people most efficiently. If you want streets designed only to move the maximum number of cars, move to Schaumburg.

  9. B says:

    Jeff, there is the very strong possibility that horrible traffic congestion is the desired result of the Ashland BRT.

    To get radical change often one must first break the system that currently exists. Then a new system can be built to replace it.

  10. Jeff says:

    Check out the Streetsblog article that claims New York’s BRT experience proves that the same thing will work in Chicago. What the Streetsblog article ignores (despite the cover photo for the article), is that the First and Second Avenue BRT lines still left THREE LANES OPEN FOR NON-BUS VEHICLE TRAFFIC. Simply put, comparing the First and Second Avenue BRT lines to the proposed Ashland BRT is like comparing apples and cannonballs.

  11. Stephen says:

    What they really ought to do is just ASK EVERYONE WHO LIVES IN THE AREA what they think. (not just a biker activist group who had out of area people show up).

  12. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    If you count all the people from the city, CTA, consultants working on behalf of the BRT, etc., then yes, there were 110 people there. There was seriously about a 1:1 ratio of actual attendees to staff.

  13. […] Brockway, from the driver advocacy blog The Expired Meter, mentioned the Active Trans rally in a post about the event and reported that “supporters clearly outnumbered detractors” at the hearing. However, Rosalind […]

  14. Pete says:

    How much did the anti-transportation alliance pay these “supporters” to brave the cold and show up? No way are so many people so passionate about this impending clusterfail to attend just to show their support.

  15. Mike says:

    Rahm already stated they’re nowhere close on Ashland BRT. They’ll focus on downtown first. Why can’t they just kill this project already? It’s not going to work. You can’t eliminate half the lanes that were for cars and not expect a traffic buildup. Not to mention, the elimination of most left turns. This has fail written all over it. Oh, and what about snow removal? Where’s the white stuff gonna go?

  16. Lee says:

    LOL @ Pete: Trust me, there’s no way the non-profit Active Trans could afford to pay people to go to something like this. You’re just having a hard time accepting that your viewpoint is fading as the dominant cultural viewpoint. It shouldn’t be at all surprising that Chicagoans are so passionate about better transit, considering this city was built around streetcars and the El.

  17. Mike says:

    Lee, I’ll be the first to admit that our public transit system is sub par. In my opinion, buses suck but that’s not productive. I feel our train system is painfully not complete. As our city grew, our train system basically stayed the same. There should be el or subway stops everywhere but there’s not. They used buses to fill the gaps and gaps kept getting better. This money would better be used on trains and updating buses.

  18. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    I know it’s hard to believe, but there are a group of people who feel very passionately about alternative transportation issues. It’s odd, I agree but not as goofy as some doofus producing a website about driving and parking issues in Chicago.

  19. B says:

    I’ll wager that something close to 99% of drivers who use ashland ave daily have no idea this plan exists and most of those who do are unaware of any meetings. Of course anyone in opposition to an idea like this needs to be knowledgeable about the psychology often used in public meetings or it is simply futile, even harmful to the opposition to even attend.

    Furthermore, ideas like this one just didn’t appear. These ideas come from the foundations that are controlled by the 0.001%. Did you know that BRT efforts are funded by the Rockefeller foundation?

    Remember the late 19th and early 20th century attempts by the very wealthy to engineer society the way they thought was best? Their company towns and the like? This didn’t go away after americans revolted against it. It simply changed forms and has been ongoing.

    So, there is quite a lot of money to get us serfs out of our automobiles. Now whether people who go to meetings are true believers, useful idiots, or paid is not something I can comment on, but the idea there isn’t money backing this is just plain wrong.

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