Bus vs. Cars: A Cornucopia Of Ashland BRT Coverage

With the Ashland Bus Rapid Transit project back in the news, the debate over the controversial plan is heating up.

So, the chef’s here at The Expired Meter have cooked up a feast of news stories and opinions to satisfy even the most insatiable consumers of local transportation news.

We start off the top of the menu with a palate cleansing starter of a discussion on the BRT from Chicago Tonight.

Carol Marin interviews Ald. George Cardenas (12th) who has reservations about the plan along with Metropolitan Planning Council Executive Vice President Peter Skosey, who’s organization is strongly supportive.

Next, you have a choice of delicious news items from the south–South Side of Chicago that is.

On Tuesday evening, the CTA hosted the first of two open houses at Benito Juarez High School at Ashland & Cermak. A small, mainly pro-BRT crowd showed up and we have three options to chose from.

DNA Info serves up a palatable but standard fare on the event, while Streetsblog Chicago starts its coverage of the event at a bar a few blocks away from the open house before following a crowd of Active Transportation Alliance inspired people to the school.

A group of BRT supporters brave the cold Tuesday night to march over to the CTA sponsored open house at Benito Juarez High School. Photo credit: John Greenfield/Streetsblog Chicago.

A group of BRT supporters brave the cold Tuesday night to march over to the CTA sponsored open house at Benito Juarez High School. Photo credit: John Greenfield/Streetsblog Chicago.

While the crowd at the open house was mainly supportive of the BRT, the Sun-Times coverage focused on managers of two businesses who were upset they had not been in the loop on the project. One of the interviewees was the manager of the Costco in the 1300 block of S. Ashland who was quoted saying, “You don’t go to Costco in a bus. You go to Costco in a car because it’s bulk items.”

The next course we’re serving today is some meaty coverage of the second night of BRT hearings at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse.

Over 120 people showed up and many of them were not happy with the plan.

DNA Info’s Alisa Hauser had an excellent piece focusing mainly on BRT detractors, while Streetsblog Chicago’s John Greenfield concentrated on the opposition’s opposition to the open house format.

Now, for dessert, we have a selection of scrumptious sweets for you.

First, Our Urban Times, an online newspaper covering Wicker Park and Bucktown did an interview with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) who has some strong words about the Ashland BRT. He says the rush to push through this project with many potential pitfalls before doing the city does its necessary due diligence is similar to what happened in the almost hilariously disastrous parking meter lease deal.

Our Urban Times quotes Waguespack saying:

“Many of the people who supported the parking meter deal are supporting this project,” explained Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward Alderman. “They are the same people who, a few years ago, while we were about to have agreement to remove parking along Halsted St. during rush hour and use dedicated curb service for buses, suddenly realized that the meter deal would make that impossible.

“They focus on one thing and they do not and will not look at the whole picture.”

Read the entire interview for more of the alderman’s insight into the issue.

Up second, we have Waguespack’s thoughts catching the attention of Streetsblog Chicago’s Greenfield–a forceful champion of the project. Greenfield  spanks the alderman for having the audacity to even question the Ashland BRT, for giving the issue thoughtful and rational consideration and for daring to listen to the fears of his constituents. In Greenfield’s view, Waguespack has lost his credentials as a city council “progressive” for these anti-transit transgressions.

We offer another tasty morsel from Streetsblog Chicago and the indefatigable Greenfield who takes on one of the most contentious issues proposed by the CTA–a ban on most left hand turns. Greenfield lays out the argument that banning left turns will not be the c carmageddon many BRT opponents believe this will be.

Finally, we have a refreshing and unique look at the Ashland BRT through prism of how cities are changing their approach to mass transit by forgoing expensive rail projects and moving toward bus rapid transit.

Medill Reports talks to DePaul University transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman and transportation analyst Chris Robling.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Photo courtesy of Streetsblog Chicago/John Greenfield’s Flickr page.

35 Responses to Bus vs. Cars: A Cornucopia Of Ashland BRT Coverage

  1. Mike says:

    This guy Skosey reminds me of Gabe Klein. Talks a good game but he knows it’s all BS. It’s a stupid plan, plain and simple. Just go back to the drawing board already. If the Feds don’t fund this, then it’s over.

  2. Jeff says:

    Geek:

    Thank you for the great collection of imformation on this issue. Much more useful than the the “open house” propaganda shows staged by the CTA, to shore up support for the BRT fiasco (and stifle any useful public debate of the issues).

    It seems that the Streetsbloggers are beginning to realize that opposition is not limited to so-called NIMBY’s and non-progresives. Their usual smear tactics of name-calling and sloganeering are beginning to backfire right in their santimonious faces

  3. Anonymous says:

    The term “bus rapid transit” sounds oxymoronic, like “affordable healthcare” or “affordable housing”. Anyways, what’s wrong with the awful close by Red Line? Or is this BRT idea simply part of the war on cars?

  4. Excellent round-up of all the BRT coverage Mike. I try to stay on top of all of the local media outlets, and somehow I missed the Chicago Tonight discussion.

    Of course, I beg to differ with you on Waguespack who, as I’ve often said, is a nice guy who has been a key independent voice at City Hall. It’s a positive thing that he’s listening to his constituents’ legitimate concerns about BRT. But trashing the CTA’s plan, which will provide fast, reliable transit for tens of thousands of residents, by comparing it to the disastrous parking meter contract, is totally irresponsible.

  5. B says:

    What I have noticed is that increasingly over the years the proposals to encourage and improve transit come more and more at the expense of driving. Same with those for bicycling.

    It appears that there is absolutely no effort put into improvements that are just plain improvements. And yes there are ways to make improvements for everyone that are cost effective. It just takes some creativity. In some ways maybe alternatives will be costly, but this country has cost-no-object money to blow on all sorts of worthless and destructive things, why not some of that for effective infrastructure?

    This and much more is what causes me to think we are dealing with a bigger agenda that in part aims to turn the private automobile back into a rich man’s toy.

  6. Pete says:

    B, your comment is dead on. This is exactly what I’ve been noticing. For a city who claims to care so much about biking, why is the lakefront path allowed to continually deteriorate? What ever happened to the planned flyover path crossing the river so that bikers and joggers don’t have to use that convoluted connection along the lake shore drive bridge?

    It would be nice to see both biking and public transit infrastructure projects that do something other than screw up traffic for automobiles. When it comes down to it, Chicago is not THAT congested of a city and there is plenty of room for all different types of transportation if we plan wisely.

  7. saucexx says:

    John,

    To accuse Ald Waguespack of being irresponsible because he’s not acting like a cheerleader is ridiculous. He’s doing the job he was elected to do and doing it very well. If we had more Alderman like him we’d be much better off. He’s also saying the same thing everyone else who isn’t a paid hack is thinking. The plan has serious flaws, it’s being rushed through and City Hall is being obstinate as usual. Go back to your blog and preach to the other 12 people who read it. When we need a sycophant we’ll know where to find one.

  8. The fact that the city council is trying to rush through this plan quietly makes it suspiciously questionable given Chicago’s back room dealing reputation which doesn’t seem to be changing….

  9. B says:

    Before protected bike lane mania and the anti-car agenda really got going they did fix a number of bad spots on the trail. But for some reason a lakefront bicycling N-S arterial has never been created. The trail can work as one kind of, but with the mixed use, speed zones, and patched together nature it isn’t one.

    Back when americans cared about making things better more than telling their neighbors how to live we got solutions like Wacker drive and the L and subways and street cars. Today we get solutions like this particular implementation of BRT. And the thing is BRT by itself isn’t a horrid idea, its the particular implementation that’s all sorts of wrong.

  10. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Hey Sauce,

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, but to be fair, Streetsblog Chicago gets a ton of traffic. I’m guessing more than what The Expired Meter gets–probably a lot more. I say this with a mild bit of envy but with a healthy amount of respect. Whether you agree with John or not, what he and Steve Vance do at Streetsblog Chicago is really impressive. Despite my disagreements with John on a bunch of issues (we actually agree on a few things) I have TREMENDOUS respect for him and what those guys do at their site.

  11. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    John Greenfield,

    I figured you had a contrary view on Ald. Waguespack’s views on BRT.

    Ald. Waguespack has my respect for being one of the few aldermen, along with his chief of staff Paul, who actually think things through, try to understand issues from multiple perspectives and ask questions. I wish more of our elected representative–at EVERY level of government did this–because we’d be in heckuva better shape than we currently are.

    P.S. I really liked Carol Marin’s interview/moderating on this issue. I thought she asked a lot of good questions, understood the issues and gave viewers a good overview of the issues surrounding BRT.

  12. Here is one approach to creating a left turn option:
    http://www.edgewaterobserver.blogspot.com/2013/12/ashland-brt-left-turn-accomodation.html

    By using the out-of-the-box approach of combining both left and right turners into one lane, the current right turn lane, and splitting the BRT station into two one either side, you can finesse left turns. It’s explained more at the post above.

  13. B says:

    Such over complication. It’s a poor mans version of Palatine road.

    If they want a first class BRT there needs to be grade separation, under/over passes, double decker streets, or something else to the same ends. That’s for first class. Second class would be replacing street parking with off street parking structures and using the entire street space to maintain usability with timed/computer controlled traffic signals. Third class is probably something along edgewaterobserver’s idea. A poor man’s Palatine road or some other complicated sign/signalling/lane system that will sacrifice a few cars and lives a year to the transit gods as drivers make mistakes. The current idea by the City/CTA…. Steerage. Bowels of the boat class. An idea that doesn’t really make the bus travel any faster and has huge negative impact on everyone else while still likely sacrificing lives to the transit gods due to its complexity.

  14. […] An Analysis of Last Week’s Local BRT Coverage (Expired Meter) […]

  15. saucexx says:

    PTG,

    Point taken.

    I get prickly though when someone who has an agenda acts like they don’t. And Streetsblog and their ilk definitely have an agenda. Unfortunately the rest of us end up paying the price for their Quixotic ideas.

  16. Z28 says:

    +1 on the War on Cars being waged by the city. It is undisputed that the car is the best mode of transportation (for those who work hard enough to afford it). Nothing else is as reliable and fast and gets you to where you are going with a minimum of walking. Soon every street in the city will be given over to bikes and busses — heck, we are basically there now! It’s an envy of success by people who resent car ownership and private property ownership in general. It’s no secret that public transit attracts the welfare class. Imagine the economic benefits of eliminating all public transit from Chicago! No subsidies to pay and the free loaders would have to move somewhere else!

  17. Les says:

    Mr. Geek, WHO is paying for this newest project by the CTA? taxpayers.
    What will the real final tab be for taxpayers? 100′s of Millions, but no one knows, because in Chicago who really cares when taxpayers keep paying.

  18. Thanks for the kind words Mike. The respect is mutual: despite our different viewpoints, I think you do some quality reporting.

    I do disagree with your statement that I “spank[ed] the alderman for having the audacity to even question the Ashland BRT, for giving the issue thoughtful and rational consideration and for daring to listen to the fears of his constituents.” I agree that Waguespack should be doing the kind of in-depth analysis of BRT that is his strong suit, and listening to the understandable concerns of his ward’s residents. I’m fine with him not endorsing BRT, like Alderman Ameya Pawar has, and instead withholding judgement until he gets more info.

    The problem is that Waguespack has been negative about BRT from the get-go – he basically rushed to judgement on it. His comparing BRT to the parking meter deal is the icing on the cake.

    Saucexx, Streetsblog doesn’t act like we don’t have an agenda. We make no bones about being advocates for efficent, sensible transportation and safer, more livable streets. We don’t pretend to report the news in a “fair and balanced” manner.

  19. David says:

    228 wrote:
    It is undisputed that the car is the best mode of transportation (for those who work hard enough to afford it).

    My comment: Actually the “best” mode of transit is a helicopter or a limo.

    228 wrote:
    Nothing else is as reliable and fast and gets you to where you are going with a minimum of walking.

    My comment:
    Unless everyone else is in a car at which point you have a grid lock nightmare in the middle of a smog choked city.

    228 wrote:
    It’s no secret that public transit attracts the welfare class.

    My comment:
    Really? All of those folk on the Metra North line from the Northern Suburbs would be shocked to hear that they are in the “welfare” class. Or the Evanstonians on the Evanston Express… and so on.

    228 wrote:
    Imagine the economic benefits of eliminating all public transit from Chicago! No subsidies to pay and the free loaders would have to move somewhere else!

    My comment: No doubt where most of the citizens of Chicago will also have moved when the City is nearly devoid of cleaning personnel, security guards, parking lot attendants, gas station attendants, restaurant workers, store clerks, actors, artists, bar tenders, ushers, and a whole range of other people that use public transit. And those that were left would be stuck in an unending and eternal traffic jam.

    I am not “defending” the BRT. I think that a BRT, if properly structured may make sense. I am not sure that THIS BRT is properly designed.

  20. B says:

    “We make no bones about being advocates for efficent, sensible transportation and safer, more livable streets.”

    Because everyone who disagrees with what you advocate isn’t for sensible, efficient, safe, or livable?

    I wasn’t going to comment into this particular branch of the discussion but that sort of statement really hits a nerve with me. The people who oppose BRT and a lot of the other stuff clearly do not find these things to be more sensible, efficient, safe, or livable. The political process is one of imposing the opinions of a group or even an individual on everyone else. It would be nice to only forward solutions that are improvements and don’t come at the expense of those with less political power, but that’s not how it works in politics. As Bastiat wrote:

    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

  21. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    John,

    Perhaps I am using a bit of literary license in using the word “spanked,” (I considered using “taken to the woodshed” or “took to task” or some other similar parlance). No doubt you were critical of his view. And that’s fine, that’s what writers and in particular opinion writers do. But I don’t think there’s any doubt your piece was pretty tough on him.

    Just a bit of background, the alderman has been watching the Ashland BRT from close to the very beginning. He actually had brought the issue onto my radar because he had gone to many of the early meetings and was hearing from business owners in particular of their worries. He’s been concerned about the project for a while–but isn’t that his job?

    He’s also still angry about the Lincoln #11 bus (I think I have the route # right) from a recent e-mail conversation. My point in telling you this is, he seems, in my opinion to always be looking at what’s best for his ward and the city first and is not easily pigeonholed into a endorsing a certain agenda–whether it be pro-drivers, pro-bike or pro-transit or pro-any other point-of-view. He seems, again in my opinion, to look at each issue individually and weigh the relative merits based on lots of research and thought.

    I wish my alderman did that.

    Thanks John! I always enjoy when you pop in over here to weigh in on things.

  22. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    David,

    David says. “My comment: Actually the “best” mode of transit is a helicopter or a limo.”

    Not only is this a hilarious line, but it TRUE! Who doesn’t want to get around in a helicopter or a limo???

    David, if you ever get your hands on a helicopter, please put me on your list of people who wants a ride.

  23. […] everyone else who is skeptical about the Ashland […]

  24. saucexx says:

    B,

    Well said. I’m sure that point is lost on John though. BTW how much did it cost to get your supporters to show up at the first meeting John? Must’ve been a big bar tab.

    It’s a red herring to say if you’re against this stupid BRT plan you’re anti transit. Personally speaking I’d love to see our 18th century mass transit system updated to the 21 century. And I’ve continually said as such. I’d give up every bus in a heart beat to get street cars back. But I’m sick of the City treating car owners as ATM machines. And I’m sick of the City forcing transit plans down our throats when better or cheaper plans are brushed aside. Anybody who looks at the Ashland BRT objectively immediately sees red flags, Waguespack included. But unfortunately while it seems Gabe is gone his stink and his sycophants remain.

    John like it or not automobiles are the dominant mode of Transportation in the City , State and Country. Wealth and economic growth will not be generated on the back of a bicycle. To pretend otherwise is foolish and counter productive.

    I own a car and it gets me to work outside of the city. If it wasn’t for a car my tax dollars would be going to someplace else other than Chicago.

  25. Pete says:

    I drove on Ashland this evening for the first time in a long time. The city is CRAZY if they think it can be turned into one lane each direction and have the result be anything but a total shitshow. It is clogged with a lot of traffic even as it is.

    I also noticed the numerous speed cameras that were constantly flashing. What does Rahm think will happen to all this camera revenue once traffic becomes constant gridlock? Bet he didn’t put two-and-two together on this one.

  26. B says:

    Rahm will just move the speed cameras once Ashland is ruined. Money is only good for getting power. The BRT will be a demonstration of political power.

  27. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Pete,

    You want to hear something weird? I was on Ashland this evening around 6 PM, going northbound from Division to Addison.

    And you know what? I had that exact SAME thought–reducing Ashland to a single lane in each direction would make rush hour INSANE!!!

    It took a half hour to get from Division to Addison during rush hour. It would be WAY worse with BRT.

    I also travel along Western and Damen sometimes during rush hour. Those get backed up really bad too. I imagine if BRT is put into place and some of that traffic from Ashland gets pushed onto these other streets, those are going to be extra super painful as well.

  28. Saucexx says:

    Hah!

    Great minds think alike. I was on Ashland tonight around 5:45 pm, from I-290 to Adams and thought the same thing. I even called my wife to talk about how crazy a BRT would be. It was a parking lot even after I got off at Adams and there was no relief until I got to Grand Ave from Paulina. Whoever came up with this harebrained idea has clearly NEVER driven a car along Ashland Ave.

  29. […] to articles from Our Urban Times, which has featured consistently negative coverage, and the Expired Meter, a driver advocacy blog. The ward email includes an excerpt from the latter blog, a reference to my […]

  30. fstopman says:

    The Parking Ticket Geek,

    You know, you are defending a transportation system in which you traveled from Division to Addison (3 miles) in 30 minutes. 6 mph is a only a little faster than you could walk (it’s jogging speed), and is about half as fast as you could ride a bike.

    It’s not only Ashland that is a PITA during rush hour. Cars are big. There is no way to move a huge number of them quickly in a very confined space. We don’t need a war on cars (I use one when I have to, and I want to keep that option), but we do need to give people who would like to improve their quality of life by driving less the opportunity to do so.

  31. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    fstopman,

    First, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    But you seem to think that me, and others here, are somehow against walking, biking, mass transit or any other type of alternative transportation. NOT true. I do all of the above (admittedly not as much as I should), but to me (and others who routinely comment), balance is important.

    I think the goal of BRT, to improve bus transit quality and times on Ashland, is an admirable goal. I support that goal. But, is it worth it if the net number of people using Ashland (Total Bus + Cars) declines? Or, is it worth it to spend millions of dollars if the total number of people using Ashland (Bus + Cars) is the same?

    Just because people here are questioning BRT does not mean we’re against transit and other modes of alternative transportation.

    P.S. What does PITA stand for? I’m unfamiliar (or just a moron).

    P.P.S. During non-peak hours I can get between Division and Addison between 10-15 minutes on Ashland in my car.

  32. Greg says:

    Geek -

    PITA – Pain In The Ass…

  33. Jeff says:

    Streetsbloggers are putting on their heavy duty period panties, whining about Central Loop BRT project:

    http://chi.streetsblog.org/2014/07/23/central-loop-brt-will-skimp-on-key-rapid-features/

  34. Pete says:

    At least the loop BRT will still be able to serve it’s real purpose: deliberately causing more congestion for cars.

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