Today’s Headlines

  • Driver Who Killed Bobby Cann Has Arraignment This Morning (Kevenides)
  • CMAP Report Disputes IDOT’s Numbers About Benefits of Illiana Expressway (Crain’s)
  • #Divvyred Bike Is Chicago Unicorn: Ride It For Chance to Win a Free Membership (Tribune)
  • Pink Line Train Slams Into SUV After Driver Tries to Speed Around Crossing Gates (CBS)
  • Chairman O’Halloran is Third Metra Board Member To Resign During Hush Money Scandal (Crain’s)
  • Businesses Continue to Misunderstand Benefits of Bus-Only Lanes on Busiest Bus Route (Gazette)
  • CTA’s Proposed Seating for 7000-Series Cars Has Fewer Aisle-Facing Seats Than 5000s (Tribune)
  • Busy Lakefront This Weekend: Take the CTA to Lollapalooza, Cubs, Bears Fest (Tattler)
  • Curious City Figures Out What Makes Metra Shut Down in Severe Weather (WBEZ)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

  • Anonymous

    Glad to see CMAP objecting to Illiana, but after their cave job on the Circle, I’m not optimistic that they won’t give final approval.

  • Has anyone tried to explain to the Ashland business owners that the 9 bus carries way more people than the roadway does? That road is not for business in the first place. It’s a major arterial to move north-south for people, not just cars. If the bus is carrying as many people as the cars are, the bus deserves its own lane entirely. Not hard to understand!

  • Especially with the Peotone airport approved …

  • CL

    Yes, even if zero drivers switch, the people who ride the Ashland bus deserve faster service.

  • Anonymous

    Agree. They should lobby the CTA to eliminate 3/4 of the stops so that it only stops every four blocks at the major intersections instead of stopping at literally EVERY block. It’s madness. This is what happens when you design something for the least common denominator.

  • Anonymous

    False. The #9 bus handles something like 17% of all traffic on Ashland, aka a small minority.

    I’ve noticed that many businesses dont do well on Ashland despite the many passersby. It’s not a very “nice” street, at least by me in Lakeview.

  • You’re right, it’s not as high as I wrote. The buses are only 1% of the traffic, though, and carry many more times people. And 17% is not a small minority. It’s a lot of people that get stuck; with faster service, people riding nearby bus routes may switch and drivers may even switch.

    I don’t shop anywhere on Ashland because it’s such an awful street. I can’t imagine too many people that go to those businesses are even parking there, either, with how busy the street is. The Ashland corridor is an excellent north-south street for moving people quickly.

  • Anonymous

    I dont know what qualifies as a small minority in your mind, but 17% does the trick in mine. Regardless of how we want to qualify it, obviously a lot more people are travelling via car than bus, in this case at a ratio of about 6:1. The main (though not only) thing that’s slowing down those buses is the CTA’s own idiotic design.

  • Anonymous

    This is not a reasonable solution. If there is congestion, no matter how few stops the bus has, it gets stuck in traffic and then is not an express bus. The idea is to expand capacity of the road and much to your disbelief, a lot more people can travel through the area if a lane is dedicated to bus service. Delivery trucks will find their way around the single-lane issue by either avoiding the area during rush hour or taking alternate routes. Traffic is like water; it will find the easiest and fastest route.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not saying the bus should be an express bus, I am saying the CTA should make the number of stops reasonable so that the bus doesn’t travel insanely slower than the rest of traffic. The slowness of the #9 is the CTA’s own fault for having the buses make an absurd number of stops and placing many of the stops before traffic lights at intersections (instead of after them). Besides, why exactly should a bus get **preferential** treatment over cars at a massive taxpayer expense along a given route when it’s only a small minority of travelers that use it? As someone who commutes on his bike and would like to see better bike infrastructure, can I therefor argue that we should rip out car lanes on certain roads in order to make special bike lanes that have light priority and other perks? Hey, I’d love it and it would benefit me, but it’s also ridiculously unfair.

    You’re falling into the same bogus argument that other supporters of the BRT do: we can reduce car capacity by 50% on a highly travelled road and magically, everything will be just swell for the vast majority of traffic (ie cars and trucks). Trucks will just like, uhhhh, find their way around it and stuff. Cars too. They will take the path of least resistance all right, which is along quiet side streets (ie where I live) or merely sitting idly for hours along Ashland as it crawls even worse than before. Or Western will turn into a mess. Or Southport…hey, at least they’ll be able to make left turns. As I have said before, this is nothing more than the “free lunch” school of economics, which is to say it’s nonsense.

  • Anonymous
  • “I therefor argue that we should rip out car lanes on certain roads in order to make special bike lanes that have light priority and other perks.”

    Ridden on Dearborn lately?

  • Joseph Musco

    You have to break down “business owners” to subtypes to understand the opposition. Bars, restaurants, and boutique shops are all going to be very pro-BRT because it fits their demographics. If you run a remodeling business, a funeral home or some kind of appliance shop on Ashland you have different customers. Good for business in the aggregate is not the same as good for all businesses. If you run a thriving kitchen cabinet shop on Ashland you need to both deliver the cabinets and receive lumber and materials. How does BRT help that owner and that segment of the economy? The breakdown of commercial property in the US is roughly 40% office, 20% industrial, 20% retail, 20% apartments. Each segment and subset of a segment is going to have a different way of using the roads and speak out accordingly.

  • Anonymous

    When it’s convenient for your ideals, you toggle between describing things as subsidies or investments. Cars = subsidies, buses = investments.

  • Anonymous

    A subsidy is an investment. I believe that we should subsidize the modes that are most the efficient, the least destructive, and that make the most financial sense. In this particular case, it makes sense to subsidize the bus.

  • Anonymous

    No, haven’t ridden there. I think you understand my point though.

    I still dont get it. We wouldn’t tolerate the L stopping at every block, nor would we tolerate your BRT stopping at every block! We also wouldn’t allow stations to be placed in locations that cause people to sit idle for no reason. But when it comes to regular bus service, we practically embrace these inefficiencies. That bus is slow because it’s hardly ever moving, it’s always stopped somewhere. And rather than simply fixing the problem, we get what’s typical when it comes to spending other peoples’ money, which is an insanely expensive solution fraught with risks and all sorts of other issues.

  • Anonymous

    I hate to break this to you but you have it backwards. The bus is the least efficient, which is why it needs a subsidy. Things that are efficient dont need subsidies. My guess it that you think the bus is “efficient” because it’s like carpooling on steroids, but what you’re probably conveniently ignoring is that after all the wait times, the stops, the travel speed, waiting for transfers, missing lights, bunching, general lateness, walking to/from stops, it’s much much less efficient than cars. This is why so many people drive, because the bus is actually horribly inefficient for them (and I would argue a helluva lot less pleasant, but to each his own). All these people (the majority of travelers) in cars aren’t stupid, they’ve weighed all the costs and benefits and concluded that for them, the bus is inefficient. And yes, that includes financial tradeoffs. They’re in there cars because the bus is inefficient.

    Now if you want to argue it’s more efficient based on some other softer reason that has more to do with some idealistic issue (what do you even mean by “less destructive”????), that’s another matter and I’ll just avoid that discussion.

  • Unnecessary use of private cars (something that’s bad for society) is currently appealing because it has been subsidized and prioritized for decades. The point of BRT is to subsidize and prioritize transit use (something that benefits society) so that it becomes more appealing than driving. bedhead1, do we really need to explain to you how transit is less destructive than driving? If so, let me count the ways…

  • bedhead1, you say you’re a bike rider, so you owe it to yourself to take a spin on the Dearborn protected lanes. They’re a great example of the future of transportation planning: reclaiming right-of-way from cars to make space for walking, transit use and biking, more efficent, safer and greener ways to move people through the city. That’s the philosophy behind the Ashland BRT plan.

    What you’re talking about is the old Ashland express bus, which wasn’t particularly efficient. It moved 10.3 mph during rush hour, only 1.4 mph faster than the local buses, because its path was blocked by cars. Dedicated bus lanes on Ashland will solve this problem, allowing buses to travel at 15.9 mph. But if that’s not enough to convince you, I’d like to introduce you to your new best friends: http://saveashland.com

  • Scott Sanderson

    How would you make the bus run faster?

  • Anonymous

    I use the LFP a lot for north/south travel around there. I am paranoid about getting doored (almost happened to me again on Saturday on Broadway) so I prefer the path whenever possible. Have never had much need for Dearborn, but I will check it out.

    And yes, I’m sure I’d fit right in with that group :)

  • Not getting doored is what protected lanes are all about – give Dearborn a try. Also Broadway in Uptown is getting protected lanes: http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/08/01/mix-of-protected-and-buffered-bike-lanes-slated-for-busy-broadway/

    Yes, you guys deserve each other. ; )

  • Anonymous

    Put stops every four blocks, only at major intersections. Place the stops after the intersections. Try it for 6-12 months, see what happens.

    Will this make the bus fast? No, but the BRT wont even be fast, just faster (the BRT is expected to travel slower than cars). But it’ll go a long way to making it tolerable, and it costs next-to-nothing.

    As someone who’s ridden the bus plenty before (I’ve long since given up on it because it’s horribly frustrating and a waste of time) these are the two most obvious problems. I cant even count how many times I wanted to scream because we missed yet another light (eg when there were a few cars in front of us which prevented the bus from pulling up to the stop, then the light turns green, we can finally pull up to let passengers get on/off, then by the time that process is done the light is red again. And if it’s a really bad bad, more people would then try to get on while we were stopped at the red, and while we’d at least make the next green, it would be at the end of the green. And this would happen over and over and over again) or we had to make a stop at some totally random street that was one (!!!!!!) block past a major intersection where we had just stopped.

  • Anonymous

    You’re totally right. A bus with a zillion stops, stuck in rush hour traffic is horribly inefficient. I used to ride my bike down to Pershing and Ashland (from Chicago Ave) for soccer games. I’d pass multiple buses on the way. BRT is a totally new concept; it’s not like your typical bus. I edited my previous comment to clarify what I meant by efficiency and destructiveness.I would not recommend BRT where the land use and density would not support it. Ashland has appropriate density levels and destinations along it where it makes sense.

  • Anonymous

    I hear what you’re saying. And fwiw I’m not just outright anti-BRT just for the sake of it. I think the BRT would work well if there was a robust BRT *network* throughout the city, but without that network effect we get slammed by most of the drawbacks (traffic gets horrible) while the benefits are slim (a minority of people save 5-10 minutes). If I knew I could get most places in the city (instead of just along Ashland) by BRT alone, now that would be interesting. Unfortunately as nice as this would all be, it’s certainly not an economic reality and probably not a political reality, which is why I’m inclined to say let’s move on to other ideas.

  • Fred

    Are you opposed to eliminating slow zones on el lines too? They are just speeding up one leg of a small number of people’s journeys…

    You are totally right that a full BRT network would be awesome. But, as you said, going from a single BRT-lite line to a full BRT network is financially and politically impossible. Ashland BRT is just the *FIRST* BRT line in the city. It is a test and a prototype. Assuming it is successful, it should lead to many more BRT lines throughout the city. If it is a failure, the city has only invested $155m instead of the billions a full network would cost.

    Should the entire concept of BRT be scrapped because a full multi-billion dollar network can’t be implemented at once, or is $155m a reasonable toe-in-the-water?

  • Anonymous

    For now, actually yes, I believe it should be entirely scrapped as economically unfeasible if nothing else. Do you know what I was reading last week? The latest city financing forecast. It is just…wow. We have a $2.5 billion aggregate shortfall over the next three years (plus it’s back-end loaded…it’s getting worse at an accelerating rate!). That’s if things go okay. I dont think people have any appreciation for how ugly these financial statements are…hard to blame people I suppose, most folks dont understand this stuff.

    Whether you realize this or not, the city is currently in triage mode. Why do you think 2,000 people just got fired from CPS? Would you like to tell them, and the parents of kids who go to these schools, “Sorry, we had to make these cuts in order to pay for those really modern buses that save people seven minutes.” I realize money is fungible so that’s perhaps not a totally fair argument, but generally speaking that’s what’s going on – we are in triage mode. It might not look much like it, but the city is scrambling to figure this all out. So over the next few years you’re going to see more privatizations of things like Midway Airport, more debt raised at higher and higher interest rates, more spending cuts, and higher taxes and fees. The idea that we have the financial luxury of constructing the BRT – even just a single stretch of it – is fantasy. Rahm knows this, obviously, which is why he used caution when talking about it last week when John Greenfield pressed him on it.

  • Fred

    How much of the $155m is actually coming from Chicago? I assume a large portion of it is from state and federal grants.

    Those 2000 jobless people now need better public transit more than ever. Ditching a car can save those people thousands of dollars per year; hence all the hubub over Ventra and its effects on the poor.

    There is certainly an argument that can be made that better public transit will stimulate the economy and create jobs. The easier it is for me to get to a store, the less likely I am to buy online. You have to invest money in order for that to happen, and not just temporary construction jobs.

  • Anonymous

    Haha, go talk to one of those laid off teachers, tell them that and see how they react. Say to their face, “Rather than actually spending the money on rehiring you, trust me that you’re better off if we spend that money on a bus route that will save you a few minutes, assuming you ride it at all. You see, we had to fire you to make your life better.” Let me know how that goes.

    I dont know exactly what portion of the bill Chicago would foot, but that’s not really the point. It’s a ton of money, and if the whole system is unfeasible due to cost, why bother “dipping a toe in the water” at all? Again, we are in triage mode, not let’s-spend-like-drunken-sailors-on-shiny-new-toys mode.

  • bedhead1, please try to refrain from posting misinformation about BRT – this is the second time I’ve noticed you do this recently. BRT would would not just save people “5-10” minutes. It would cut 21 minutes off the *one-way* trip from Ashland/Fullerton to Midway Airport, and 26 minutes off the *one-way* trip from Ashland/95th to the Illinois Medical District: http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/brt/CTA_Ashland_BRT_Fact_sheet.pdf

    Take a tip from Bob Dylan and “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.”

  • Anonymous

    I was just using the roughly 5mph difference on the original 5 mile stretch. Difference = 10 minutes. Wasn’t trying to be dishonest, just simplistic.

  • Fred

    Except that that’s not how it works. Government budgets don’t work like home budgets. I can give up my morning Starbucks and turn that into an annual vacation. Blowing up an infrastructure improvement project doesn’t just suddenly turn into money for teachers. That is flaw in the whole “the government shouldn’t spend money on ANYTHING else cuz what about the childrens?!?!!” argument. Federal CMAQ funds that rebuild roads and bridges and rapid transit can’t, by law, be used to fund schools and teachers and police or any other project. Either you use the money earmarked for the specific project or it vaporizes.

  • bedhead1, you can drop the argument that BRT is taking away significant city money from schools or public safety because the vast majority of the funding will come from federal transportation grants.

  • Anonymous

    I thought I read that Chicago would have to pay for a quarter of the cost? How do grants work with future BRT routes? Do we get the same grant funding?

  • Anonymous

    You are right, I realize there is some disingenuousness in my CPS argument, which I admitted to prior. I was more trying to illustrate a point that all is not well in the city. Those earmarks are dangerous though, like saying I’m actually saving money by buying something on sale.

  • Federal transportation grants usually involve an 80:20 federal/local funding split, so the state or city would be ponying up some funds, but spending that money in order to get four times as much in federal funds for a project that’s going to be a shot in the arm for the local economy is certainly not wasteful.

  • OK bedhead1, that’s the third time you’ve posted misinformation about BRT recently. The bus currently goes 8.9 mph so 5 miles takes 34 minutes. BRT will travel 15.9 mph, so 5 miles will take 19 minutes. That’s a savings of 16 minutes. Please check your math before you post stats next time.

  • Anonymous

    I guess my rounding errors are subject to bias :)

  • I wouldn’t call stating a number that’s 60 percent off a rounding error.

  • Anonymous

    17% of the vote is enough to have a successful political party in most countries. (Not the US because our political system sucks, but almost every other democratic country in the world.)

    That’s a lot of people.

  • Anonymous

    The fact is that everything will be just swell for the vast majority of traffic. It’s been tried. It’s been tested.

    This is not a congested streets. In fact, there aren’t any genuinely congested streets in all of Chicago (try visiting New York).