BRT Roundup: ‘It Would Probably Be Like Rush Hour All Day’

The 30-day comment period on the Ashland Bus Rapid Transit ended Friday.

But the debate over the controversial plan is not over. A handful of stories on the Ashland BRT have popped up in the past few days and here’s a brief rundown.

First up, WBEZ’s Chip Mitchell does a great job of covering the issue. He starts with an interview of a veteran rider of the Ashland bus who says bus transit times have been increasing over years and he’d enjoy the benefits of BRT which have been touted by the CTA.

But then Mitchell rides shotgun with Dan Andrews making deliveries for Kennicott Brothers, a flower wholesaler. Andrews explains to a surprised Mitchell the drawbacks of reducing traffic to a single lane in each direction and how eliminating many, if not most left turns will force his company’s trucks onto neighborhood side streets.

“It Would Probably Be Like Rush Hour All Day”, Andrews tells WBEZ.

This segues into a piece, at Gapers Block entitled “Ashland Bus Rapid Transit Woes” which primarily interviews a handful of worried business owners along the Ashland Corridor all who believe they’ll have major problems if BRT goes in as planned.

Then, Our Urban Times has a lengthy and comprehensive piece on recent open house meetings on the BRT organized by the CTA.

Finally, Streetsblog writer John Greenfield takes issue with an e-mail blast 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack sent to his constituents Friday morning, accusing the alderman of being an alarmist and fear-mongering.

“Ashland will be permanently reduced to one lane north and south bound,” Waguespack says in his e-mail. “While several meetings have been held by the CTA, concerns by many businesses and residents in our area included the lack of official notification given to businesses or property owners along Ashland, financial costs, and the impacts to communities adjacent to Ashland.”

Waguespack has been skeptic of the Ashland BRT from when the CTA first began laying out their plans at public meetings over the past year or so.

Here’s Greenfield’s piece, “Waguespack Sends a Fear Mongering Email About BRT to Constituents.

Make sure you read the comments. There’s always a lot of interesting debate on this issue in Streetsblog comment sections.

19 Responses to BRT Roundup: ‘It Would Probably Be Like Rush Hour All Day’

  1. Pete says:

    “It Would Probably Be Like Rush Hour All Day”

    This is exactly how the streetsblogs idiots want it. The banner across the top of their site says it all: Do you envision city streets where everyone can walk and bike without fear of traffic?

    This is proof that their real goal is gradual elimination of the private automobile.

  2. DoR Employee says:

    If the Streetblog people want to walk and bike all day without fear of motor vehicle traffic…they are on Crack.

  3. B says:

    Streetsblog discloses their Rockefeller foundation funding in an earlier BRT post. I’ll leave finding the significance of this to the reader. ;)

  4. saucexx says:

    Streetsblog is attacking Ald Waguespack because he is actually thinking about this plan critically, big surprise.

    ATA and Streetsblog are shills. They take money and in return push an anti car agenda which is neither reasonable nor practical. Anybody who objectively looks at this BRT plan can see problems a mile away. It’s inexcusable to branded anti mass transit because you point out the obvious flaws in this traffic inducing nightmare. If John got out of his Mom’s basement once in a while he might notice the reality on Chicago streets. But as long as those checks keep coming……..

  5. Les says:

    I read Waguspacks email on the BRT and it seems to me people are asking questions and he is only asking more people what they think about AShland closing to one lane for vehicles. Costco invested millions like others and they weren’t told anything? And Streetblog Greenfield gets off attacking Waguespack for asking questions on behalf of Chicagoans? That is childish. The Tribune recently did a series on billions of tax dollars spent in Chicago so if anyone asks questions I want to hear them. There are too many bad ideas by this City that ended up costing us billions more than needed.

  6. David says:

    It’s amazing that the anti BRT forces think that resorting to ad hominem attacks add to the credibility of their arguments. I sometimes wonder if some of the more virulent attacks are actually from supporters of the BRT. I would point out that Ashland used to support a streetcar. Woud a modified version of the BRT work? We won’t knw until we try. After all the supporters of the Embarcadero Freeway claimed that not rebuilding it woud destroy traffic in SF. It didn’t. Eliminating left turns and non light cross streets and killing the Ashland local bus might mke a major difference.

  7. B says:

    Yep. The ad hominem attacks seem to be standard. Most people objecting are against this specific design for BRT, but not the concept of BRT. But to the BRT supporters its as if they told them their religion was false.

    Certainly there has to be a more clever design than the one proposed. Probably many. Infinite possibilities usually aren’t understood in political things. Seems it always ends up in binary.

  8. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    David, B,

    I’m with you. The anti-BRT people need to keep the arguments about data, logic and reason. Stooping to name calling undermines one’s arguments and ultimately doesn’t get the job done.

  9. David says:

    My problem with the BRT on Ashland is two fold.

    One. I don’t really like the concept of Buses as my “mass transit” vehicle. Trams, Light rail and the like, to my mind are vastly superior and are also cleaner. Many of the problems with urban infrastructure can be tied to the rather wrong headed decisions all around the country to replace street cars and the like with buses. I think that BRT is a half-solution at best…. and in many ways couples the worst of street cars with the worst of buses.

    Two. I think that THIS BRT has not been thought out well. My primary problems relates to

    a. The Parking Meter lease deal which prevents an efficient re-imagining of the street; and
    b. The stubborn refusal to kill the Ashland local bus. If the Ashland local bus was not “disrupting” the flow of the traffic lane, and if the City held to the idea of getting rid of left turns, this BRT would have a chance of working.

    But without solving those two problems, I think that this BRT will ultimately fail. This is okay as long as the right lessons are taken out of this, but I am afraid that this BRT has actually been conceived by the pro-Car forces, and is being supported by some well-meaning, but naive, groups (Yes ATA, I am looking at you……) without realizing that the “ultimate” desire of the pro-car forces is to characterize this as “BRT can’t work”. Its the same kind of alliance that produced the Berteau “Greenway”, a half-assed effort that works for no one and will be used as “antigreenway” arguments for years to come.

  10. GWC says:

    Technically, whether buses effeciently qualify as mass transit depend on how many riders they have. A bus of only a handful of people isnt really helping lower pollution or traffic, ect.. whereas a bus full of people is clearly fulfilling its purpose. http://www.gwclaw.com/blog

  11. @David Don’t worry about the parking deal. They’ll figure that out. As for the local bus we can wait and see. It may be very infrequent, like 15 to 30 minutes apart. Or maybe it will be allowed into the bus lane, so don’t sweat that one either. But yes worring about not sticking to a quality BRT, that could sink it just like the old express buses sank. And you are right, the express bus experiment has clearly informed in a good way the BRT. So hang in there.

    All the folks worried about “carmegeddon” your worries are not totally unfounded. You are not completely crazy to think there’s going to be grid lock. And you are not totally wrong to believe there is an anti-car conspiracy. There really are urbanist ideologues out there who blame the cities traffic woes on cars. There really are folks who who believe that cars make the city sub-urban. People who believe that a dense environment like the city needs dense transit to work best. And these people really do not care about most of the consequences of their dense transit agendas.

  12. saucexx says:

    David,

    The problems with this plan have been laid out in precise detail many times over, and by almost every commentator on this blog including yourself; The lack of left turns, local bus service, removal of car lanes, center vs curbside BRT, keeping parking, cost etc. Flaws the City and ATA/Streetsblog have refused to acknowledge. In addition solutions have been presented for either a BETTER BRT or other forms of transit like improved bus service, trains, subways, street cars etc. All of which have been ignored. And as rightly been pointed out, NO businesses or residents were consulted on this beforehand. The City just threw it out and ATA/Streetblog lined up behind it like good little soldiers. They then then turned around and attacked any criticism of this as anti transit and that’s just not true. I’ve personally said it myself that although the plan as designed is poor, better options exist including a well though out BRT. And keep in mind it’s Streetsblog who’s accusing Alderman Waguespack of being alarmist and fear mongering. All while ignoring all of the valid arguments that have been presented against the Ashland BRT. It’s the height of irony that not only was Ashland WIDENED to accommodate automobile traffic, but it was the gas guzzling bus itself that killed street cars.

    I have to disagree with your point on this being a conspiracy to sabotage BRT though. I just don’t see it. That’s looking for monsters in the closet. This is more about bad city planning and the quixotic quest to remove the auto from urban America. There is a good chance this gets done and even if it’s a failure, the money will have been spent and we’ll have to live with it until it’s removed or fixed. As an example the State street mall almost killed that street and it still took years to get rid of it.

    B, Well said.

  13. PKDickman says:

    Jeff,

    Do not doubt Carmageddon, my friend.

    As proof I point to CDM Smith’s own “Build Alternative Volume Schematics”.

    They show that during a typical AM rush hour 21,666 (no, I didn’t make up that number) vehicles will enter Ashland Ave., but only 11,940 will leave.

  14. B says:

    I think the BRT driven Carmageddon probably won’t happen… well it will but it will be when the BRT is constructed. By the time BRT is done people will have adjusted mostly from the construction. A few weeks or months will pass and the system will be at a new slower post-BRT equilibrium. Nobody will be able to determine exactly why by then. People will argue over the causes. They will say that people stuck with their new routes after construction ended or something else…. but with BRT done the new traffic patterns will upset some people and then there will be more interventions to shove the traffic on to ashland… and that’s when it will get really fun.

  15. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    David,

    I like most of what you have to say here. Per usual, it’s pretty intelligent stuff. I especially agree with you about the role of the parking meter lease deal in why Ashland BRT is such a problem.

    But, you lost me when you say this has been conceived by Pro-Car forces. I don’t buy that the pro-car forces want BRT to go through only to see if belly flop into a pool of utter failure to prove BRT doesn’t work. That seems a bit too conspiratorial for me.

    I liked everything else you wrote though.

  16. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    PKDickman,

    Help out the slow guy here (me!).

    But how do 21,666 vehicles enter Ashland but only 11,940 leave? Am I missing something?

    Is it a mistake on CDM Smith’s part? Or, are those missing 10,000 cars taking a different route? I’m not getting it.

    I implore you for help.

  17. PKDickman says:

    Geek,
    I found this by adding up the turning motions on their intersectional analysis. For the proposed project they subtracted the left turns and lowered the through traffic counts to fit their desires but only paid a little attention to the counts of people turning on to Ashland.

    I hope it is a mistake.
    The only scenario I can imagine where that would work is if half of the people who get on Ashland to take a 1-2 mile trip get stuck in traffic for over an hour.

    I think it is an error but I suspect that it is an error of indifference.

    I am not a traffic engineer but in my roll as a NIMBY I have reviewed several traffic studies and they ended by saying “The proposed project will have little or no effect on the surrounding traffic patterns”.

    I maintain a blog, and I am not trying to hawk it. It is an infrequent effort and really just something I use to blow off steam.
    I wrote three posts on the BRT starting with my predictions before their traffic study came out, a review of their traffic study and another plea for the Western curbside proposal. Rather than rehash them here, I provide this link to the first of them

    http://wickerblather.blogspot.com/2013/09/ashland-ave-brt.html

    These are a little dryer than my normal writing style and I apologize

  18. B says:

    There really aren’t any ‘pro-car’ forces to speak of, nothing like the big foundations that support collective ideas. Just a few small private groups of which the NMA is probably the largest.

    There are auto manufacturers but they stay out of road/driving politics these days.
    There are insurance companies, but they are mostly what should be called anti-car forces trying to drive up the expense and hassle of driving to increase their profits.
    There are road construction companies but they don’t care who or what they build a road for. A bridge for train or a car? They don’t care so long as there is a bridge built.

    The pro-car forces if we are to find any are really a bunch of disconnected individuals who simply want personal mobility. They want to get around without government or anyone dictating to them when or how or where they may go.

    because of this lack of organized political resistance drivers are huge targets and thus the last couple decades of diverting funds from taxes paid by drivers and much more. So long as the gas taxes don’t go up most drivers don’t notice or just adapt to what is going on and those that do have no way of mounting organized resistance.

    When there is a stink raised about something it’s just because word got out to enough people such that individuals raised their objections.

    It’s the same problem with libertarianism. It’s difficult to organize something that is fundamentally individualistic. Collectivists take to being organized and led far easier.

  19. Jeff says:

    What can happen when a BRT is built with no regard for traffic congestion — ask the residents of New Dehli, India about the BRT nightmare they are stuck with:

    http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/05/25/delhi-journal-the-big-bad-brt/

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