Blue Cross: Loop BRT Will Help Chicago Companies Recruit Workers

CentralLoopBRTWashington
Rendering of the street layout for Loop BRT on Washington, looking east.

So far, there’s been far less noise surrounding the city’s Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit project than the Ashland BRT plan. The $32 million downtown project, bankrolled by a Federal Transit Administration grant and local tax increment financing, will include dedicated lanes on Washington, Madison, Clinton, and Canal, serving six bus routes and 1,000 buses per weekday. Features will include a new multi-modal transit center next to Union Station, larger bus shelters, level boarding, protected bike lanes on Washington and Canal, and possibly pre-paid boarding and traffic signal prioritization.

However, there has been some grumbling from Loop business owners who are concerned that the BRT stops will obscure their storefronts, even though the shelters, heavily inspired by the winner of a design contest, will be mostly made of clear glass. Merchants are also concerned that if the bus lanes are camera enforced, delivery drivers will be ticketed for parking in them.

At the same time, many downtown businesses are seeing the big picture of how the Loop BRT will boost the economy by making it easier to access downtown job centers and attractions, as well as generating foot traffic for retail. I recently spoke to Michael Deering, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, headquartered at 300 East Randolph, about why his corporation is supporting the plan.

CL Platform on street 12-18-13
Rendering of the preliminary station design on Washington, looking west.

John Greenfield: How does Blue Cross think the Loop BRT will benefit the company?

Michael Deering: We feel that one of the main reasons Chicago is considered a world-class city is because of our robust transportation infrastructure. BRT is really part of furthering that vision of good infrastructure. By making it faster and easier to get across the Loop, it will increase company and employee productivity, and better enable Chicago-based companies to recruit workers.

BRT is clearly a continuation of our current transit system’s focus on moving people efficiently across the city. It’s taking advantage of the extensive bus network we already have and maximizing its efficiency.

JG: I’ve heard there’s been some resistance to the plan from some of the downtown merchants. [I outline the complaints.] What do you make of that?

MD: I can understand their concerns. But the potential benefits of the BRT system merit sitting down at the table and trying to address these concerns in a reasonable manner and find some resolution that would satisfy everyone’s needs. I don’t think everyone who’s impacted by the proposal really has a full picture of how the system will work. There’s an opportunity to address their concerns in a productive way.

JG: Any other thoughts?

MD: By improving the downtown transportation system, BRT is going to interconnect the transit stations and make it easier to get from the Metra stations in the West Loop to the east side of downtown. That’s going to allow more people from across the city and across the region to view downtown Chicago as a viable employment opportunity.

  • Adam Herstein

    Merchants are also concerned that if the bus lanes are camera enforced, delivery drivers will be ticketed for parking in them.

    This is a valid concern – they will be ticketed for parking in the bus lanes. That’s why they shouldn’t park there.

  • Brian

    Terrible idea. Most of those buildings on the east side are served by buses that shuttle people to and from Union Station.
    This project is worse than Ashland. Washing is currently 4 lanes, so now you want to only have two travel lanes, with trucks parked in one for loading and unloading?
    Who will use this service? Makes absolutely no sense.

  • Brian

    I guess cameras are the answer to every problem. They somehow will keep order in these unruly streets!

  • JacobEPeters

    to answer your question…60,000 people a day.

  • JacobEPeters

    it’s better than the alternative of allowing lawbreakers to selfishly flaunt the law to the detriment of everyone else, without facing repurcussions

  • ohsweetnothing

    As someone who makes up part of an…ahem…”underrepresented” population, I’d much prefer a camera doing enforcement. Pretty cut and dry with a camera as opposed to a cop’s discretion.

  • Adam Herstein

    East side of what? The river? I don’t think that most of these buildings have shuttle buses. I’ve worked in two buildings in the Loop and neither have had shuttle buses. Plus, the vast amount of foot traffic heading to Union Station every weekday afternoon seems to disagree with your assertion.

  • Adam Herstein

    I’m not really sure what you’re attempting to imply here.

  • alexfrancisburchard

    Say what, busses carry 50% + of the humans on those streets, they ought to have 50% of the pavement (though they get closer to 15%….)

  • Cash Rules Everything

    Any thoughts on allowing a limited number private shuttle buses to use the bus lanes for a fee?

  • alexfrancisburchard

    0 – there’s like 15 CTA bus routes that use the space where the lanes are going in. there really should be two bus lanes, a stationary lane and a passing bus lane.

  • alexfrancisburchard

    The new East Side (AKA Illinois Center/ Lake Shore East) Probably. to which he is correct, however the bus lanes don’t serve the new east side, they really serve busses transferring from the magnificent mile, and speed people on their journey to union from the north (and probably from the south with the likes of the jeffrey jump if I’m not mistaken. )

  • Cash Rules Everything

    Two lanes would just be excessive. As it is, the bus lanes may only be necessary for 1/4 to 1/3 of the time tops (morning and evening rush hour).

  • Mishellie

    Big brother… or something like that. Sigh.

  • George Orwell

    a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing

  • duppie

    John, I may have missed it, but how did you find out about Bluecross/ BlueShield. Did they contact you? Or did you contact them?

  • After hearing about grumbling about the plan from downtown merchants I was interested in talking to some of the downtown BRT supporters. I asked the the Metropolitan Planning Council for some contacts. We’ll have another interview later today.

  • Mishellie

    10 pts for literally being george orwell.

  • what_eva

    How do the lanes serve North Michgan and *not* Illinois Center? Any of the routes that use the lanes across Washington and then turn north on Michigan go right past Illinois Center, 1 block from Aon, 2 blocks from BCBS.

  • Roland Solinski

    I don’t see why we need to be overly punitive. Washington is flooded with traffic during rush hours, so a bus lane is needed… I don’t see why loading can’t occur in off-hours so long as the truck isn’t directly blocking a station platform.

  • FG

    Translation: we can discontinue our shuttle bus and stop subsidizing our employee’s commutes further.