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Posts from the "Bus Transit" Category

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No Surprise: International Report Says Region’s Transit Not Up to Par

20110805 08 CTA and Metra, Oak Park, Illinois

Oak Park is one of only two stations in the region where people can transfer between CTA and Metra trains.

Last month, a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development validated what Chicago researchers, a task force convened by the governor, and millions of customers have all said for years: Transit in Chicagoland is fragmented, inefficient, and far from adequate to serve the region’s transportation needs. The OECD, a “club of rich countries” that counts the United States among its 34 members, collects data and publishes research that countries and local organizations can use to understand their economies.

The report evaluated the transit network against the regional policy goals set forth in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GO TO 2040 comprehensive plan, particularly its goal to double transit ridership. OECD policy analyst Olaf Merk based the report on prior research by CMAP and the Metropolitan Planning Council. He also interviewed Chicago transportation experts Joseph Schwieterman, at DePaul University, and Steven Schlickman, at UIC. So, while it may be easy to dismiss the report as a naive European’s idealistic view, the report does rest upon adopted regional policies and local observers’ views.

The report dug deep into the many problems facing Chicagoland’s transit operations. A complex web of governments have conflicting authority over many different matters, and the overlap often results in contradictory policies. For example, the Regional Transportation Authority’s policies govern most transit planning in the region, and they support GO TO 2040′s goals. However, myriad policies outside of the RTA’s influence “stimulate car use,” including “generous parking policies” at the municipal level that require copious car parking at new buildings and “low gas taxes” that haven’t been raised in over 20 years.

Even the most basic level of coordination is lacking between the region’s transit systems: The services don’t even serve the same places. None of Metra’s busy downtown terminals are adjacent to CTA rail stations, and on many streets like Austin Avenue and Irving Park Road, CTA and Pace bus routes both end at the city line rather than more logical destinations. Transit service, the report said, “follows an administrative jurisdictional logic, instead of a logic motivated by traffic flows.”

Transit services haven’t adapted to changing housing and job locations, and instead continues to focus on downtown employment. “Approximately 36 percent of Chicago’s population works outside the city of Chicago,” the report explained, “and 46 percent of workers in the city of Chicago live in the suburbs.” The downtown-focused system makes it difficult to travel from city to the suburb, or between suburbs. Despite the region’s poor record at facilitating inter-agency transfers, a few junctions are being improved, like the new 95th Street Red Line station’s expanded CTA and Pace bus transfer facility, the Union Station intermodal improvements underway as part of the Central Loop BRT, and the new intermodal transfer center at Metra’s LaSalle Street station.

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Talking Headways Podcast: OMG Enough About Millennials Already

podcast icon logoJeff is back from Rail~volution with all the highlights from the sessions he skipped because he was deep in conversation in the hallways. Isn’t that what conferences are for? We discuss what we do and don’t get out of these big meetings.

We also get into CityLab‘s examination of the gap between public support for transit spending and actual transit ridership, and we bring in some illuminating survey results from Transit Center [PDF] (and of course, The Onion) to shed light on what the people want from their transit systems. And we agree: While millennials are an important cohort to look at as we examine changing trends in transportation habits, good lord we are sick of talking about them

Stay tuned till the end of the podcast for Jeff’s rundown of the conferences you can still attend this season — there are, according to his count, 50 bajillion more. Pick one and go skip all the sessions and hang out in the hallways like the cool kids.

And hang out with us by subscribing to Talking Headways on our RSS feed, Stitcher or iTunes.

The comments section awaits your contribution to our witty repartee.

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CDOT Is Finally Moving Forward With the Loop BRT Project

Bus Rapid Transit -Washington

Rendering of BRT on Washington at LaSalle.

Last July, City Hall broke the news that the start of construction on the $32.5 million Central Loop BRT project was being delayed from this fall until at least next year, if not later. That spurred concern that the project might be in jeopardy, or that it might be a low priority for Mayor Emanuel. However, the Chicago Department of Transportation today announced it has launched the bidding process for BRT system, as well as the $43 million Union Station Transit Center, and the $75 million Washington/Wabash CTA station.

All three projects will break ground by March 31, according to CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. The transit center and BRT route will be in operation by the end of 2015, and the station will open in 2016, she said. “Any one of these would be a big deal,” she said. “But it’s exciting for downtown, the neighborhoods, and the region that we’re working on all three – there are synergies between these projects.”

Walter Hook, CEO of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which is consulting on Chicago’s Loop and Ashland BRT projects, previously speculated that Mayor Emanuel had pushed back these initiatives for political reasons. It seems likely that the Loop BRT construction work, and ensuing traffic headaches, won’t begin until after the February 24 election.

The Loop BRT system will feature dedicated bus lanes on Canal, Clinton, Washington and Madison, running between Union Station and Michigan Avenue, plus several other time-saving features. CDOT predicts these will make a westbound trip across the Loop 15 percent shorter, and an eastbound trip 25 percent shorter.

Eight extra-long stations, averaging 90 feet in length, will be built on Washington (at Franklin, LaSalle, Clark, and State) and on Madison (at Franklin, LaSalle, Dearborn, and State). The stations will be long enough to accommodate two articulated buses at a time.

Seven existing stops will be eliminated on Madison (Clark, Wells, and Wacker), Canal (Washington, Monroe, and Van Buren), and Clinton (Van Buren). Having stops roughly every other block, instead of every block, will definitely speed things up.

The buses will get a type of traffic signal prioritization at seven intersections, most of which already give pedestrians a head start on motor vehicle traffic. When pedestrians get the early walk signal, a special signal will also give buses a head start over cars. Since buses won’t be turning right at these intersections, there shouldn’t be conflicts with pedestrians.

All stations will feature level boarding, which will eliminate the time needed to make buses “kneel” for seniors and people with disabilities. However, for starters, only the Madison/Dearborn station will feature prepaid boarding.

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Wicker Park Bus Stop Hasn’t Been ADA Accessible for Months

The CTA has been using this as a bus stop for over two months

People with disabilities can’t step off the curb to board buses.

For the past three months, #56 Milwaukee bus drivers have had a tough time picking up passengers, especially those with disabilities, from a temporary bus stop in the heart of Wicker Park.

The bus stop was formerly located on the northwest leg of the bustling junction of Milwaukee, North, and Damen, in front of a Walgreens. In order to accommodate construction at the iconic Northwest Tower, the Chicago Transit Authority relocated the stop to the southeast leg in July.

The temporary stop is located at a corner dotted with newspaper boxes, trash bins, and signs, so instead passengers often wait within the 15-minute standing zone in front of the Bank of America branch. When cars are standing there, they block the bus from pulling all the way up to the curb. This forces those boarding the bus at this busy transit interchange to step off the curb. That isn’t an option for people in wheelchairs, and they also can’t access the nearby Damen Blue Line station because it doesn’t have an elevator.

I alerted the CTA about the situation a month ago, and reminded them earlier this week. Spokesman Brian Steele told me the agency had been working with the bank’s property managers on the issue ever since the stop was relocated.

Steele provided another update on Wednesday. “CTA and [the Chicago Department of Transportation] have spoken to the property managers for the Bank of America building, and will be removing this 15-minute standing zone, and installing bus stop signs (heavy coated signs, not just paper signs) to clearly identify the stop,” he wrote. However, he couldn’t provide an ETA for the change.

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Woman Fatally Struck by CTA Bus Driver in Brighton Park


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47th and Western from the bus driver’s perspective.

Last Saturday, Celia Sauseda, 54, was killed after a CTA bus driver struck her at 47th Street and Western Avenue in the Brighton Park neighborhood.

Sauseda, of the 4800 block of South Damen, was struck by a westbound #47 bus at about 6:20 a.m., according to Officer José Estrada from Police News Affairs. “It appears the pedestrian may have fainted alongside the bus,” Estrada said.

Sauseda was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:54 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy was conducted last Sunday. “There was nothing to indicate a [preexisting] medical condition,” said Cook County spokesman Frank Shuftan.

The bus driver has not been cited. Major Accidents and the CTA are investigating the crash.

Fatality Tracker: 2014 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 20 (6 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 6 (1 was a hit-and-run crash)

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“Trick Out Your Trip” With ioby and TransitCenter

tricked out

Photo: ioby

How would you improve your transit experience? OK, maybe not with a Persian rug and a harpist. But shelter and a place to sit couldn’t hurt, right? And how about some better lighting and safer pedestrian features along your way to the stop?

Those small, inexpensive improvements are the target of a new campaign by TransitCenter and the crowdfunding platform ioby. TransitCenter will be offering match funds to support “at least 10 ioby projects” aiming to improve the transit experience. That means you need to crowdfund support for your idea on ioby, and then TransitCenter will match it — up to $4,000. Projects shouldn’t exceed a $10,000 total budget.

Unlike grants to transit agencies — marked by cumbersome red tape and big money for big equipment — this process is led by the transit user. TransitCenter and ioby are out to “put riders at the center of creating, funding, implementing and stewarding amenities, entertainment, convenience and comfort in transit hubs,” according to ioby co-founder Erin Barnes.

The organizations call the matching fund campaign “Trick Out My Trip,” and they’re hoping to find cheap and easy ways to make the commuter experience “faster, more reliable, more comfortable (in terms of lighting, sounds, temperature and smell), safer, with more opportunities to get home faster (with pedestrian friendly paths, carpooling or bike sharing) and to take care of other errands as part of the commute (to go to the post office, library or grocery), and to make it easy on the people who need better transit options most, like families, the very young and the very old.”

Bike-share, ride-share, and pedestrian improvements are also fair game. TransitCenter and ioby are up for funding improvements to any mode of “clean transportation.”

“While we always support better service overall, we hope small-scale projects will inspire institutions and governments and other communities to consider non-capital improvements for their customers, the riders of public transportation,” says Shin-pei Tsay of TransitCenter.

You have until October 6 to let them know you’re interested. Visit ioby for details.

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CBS 2 Presents the Windshield Perspective on Loop BRT

Construction work to build the $32 million Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit project has been postponed until next year, but workers are already out replacing utility lines on downtown streets to prepare for the project. CBS 2 anchor Rob Johnson responded with a faux exposé that trots out tired clichés about the city’s purported war on cars.

“We noticed crews digging up Loop street after street with no seeming plan,” he intones. “Then we started digging and found a city plan to radically alter the heart of the Loop.” Quite the scoop, except that the BRT project, announced back in February of 2013, has been in the news for a year and a half.

The system will run between Union Station and Michigan, including dedicated bus lanes on Canal, Clinton, Washington and Madison, as well as a new transit center next to the train station. The city has said time-saving features will cut 7.5 minutes off a roundtrip across the Loop. As part of the project, workers will build a protected bike lane between the bus lane and the curb on Washington.

“If you commute to downtown Chicago for work, your life is about to change,” Johnson warns before setting off to interview people in automobiles. “City planners have decided to move buses and bikes ahead of cars.”

“I hate it,” says one motorist. “It’s crazy. Guess I’ll be on that bus.” CBS apparently couldn’t be troubled to interview an actual bus rider who would appreciate the faster ride.

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City Colleges Students Have New, Faster Transportation Option

CCC shuttle south route

The City Colleges of Chicago south route will be several minutes faster than taking CTA.

On Monday, the City Colleges of Chicago will launch four hourly shuttle bus routes to connect its many campuses to one another and to transit facilities. Students can sign up to ride the buses for free, and free onboard wifi will allow students to finish those last-minute homework assignments.

The inter-campus shuttles, according to a board of trustees ordinance [PDF], will “remove a barrier to cross-registration” and “potentially reduce the use of personal vehicles.” SCR Medical Transportation, which also operates paratransit vehicles for Pace, will run the shuttles through mid-2016 for up to $3 million. Students must sign up ahead of time to use the shuttle, and then can use their contactless ID cards to board the bus.

Four routes will offer full service on weekdays and limited service on Saturdays. They will run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, with breaks between 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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Local Architects Envision “Meeting Place” At Empty Logan Square Plaza

Nushu's orange chairs at the Logan Square Blue Line station

Sitting and staying, exactly as Nushu architects intended.

This past Sunday, the usually forlorn bus transfer plaza above the Logan Square Blue Line station suddenly looked very different. Architects Krista Petkovsek and Kara Boyd had scrounged nearby alleys, rounded up a couple dozen used chairs, painted them orange, and scattered them around the plaza to spark a conversation about how to enliven the empty space, which is surrounded by an ever-increasing number of shops and restaurants.

Petkovsek and Boyd placed the chairs in two axes spanning the plaza last weekend, spurred by the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Old Place, New Tricks placemaking contest. The duo, co-founders of Nushu Studio, found out about the contest from Katherine Darnstadt. Her firm, Latent Design, won last year’s MPC placemaking contest for Union Station with its Blah Blah Blob! entry.

The two picked the Logan Square Blue Line station plaza as a prime example of the contest’s call to “choose a space in the city that needed a little attention,” Petkovsek said, and “to make some suggestions about what could happen in this space in the future.” A splash of color and a place to sit, she explained, could be a “starting point to grab people’s attention.”

Not coincidentally, MPC will host three meetings in September about the plaza, part of a long-term Corridor Development Initiative that MPC is managing in Logan Square. The meetings, according to Petkovsek, are where people can tell the city “what they’d like to see happen here.” The chairs are a good way to draw some attention to the plaza and advertise the upcoming meetings, “because not everybody sees social media,” she said.

In preparing for the event, Petkovsek discovered that 7,000 people pass the plaza each day: 5,625 enter the Blue Line subway there every day, 300 get on or off the 56-Milwaukee bus on the northbound side, scores of people use the Divvy station there, hundreds board and alight the 76-Diversey bus, and plenty of people just walk through.

Petkovsek and Boyd wanted to create a focal point for all that motion and activity precisely “because it’s such a transit hub.” Petkovsek cited the Akita dog statue at Tokyo’s Shibuya rail station: ”There’s a whole story behind it, and everyone uses it as their meeting place. It’s really cool.” Read more…

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Trading Cars for Transit Passes “in the Middle of the Corn and Soybeans”

The Champaign-Urbana managed to boost walking, biking and transit rates. Photo: Wikipedia

The Champaign-Urbana region managed to boost walking, biking, and transit rates. Photo: Wikipedia

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

If Champaign-Urbana can make it easier to leave your car at home, any place can. That’s what local planner Cynthia Hoyle tells people about the progress her region has made over the last few years.

With great intention and years of work, this region of about 200,000 has reversed the growth of driving and helped get more people biking and taking transit. Since 2000, Champaign-Urbana has seen a 15 percent increase in transit ridership and a 2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled. The percentage of the population biking to work is up, and the percentage driving alone is down. Champaign-Urbana tracks its progress toward these goals on a publicly available report card.

“What I tell people is that if you can do it out here in the middle of the corn and soybeans, you can do it too,” said Hoyle, a planner with Alta Planning + Design who helped lead the process. “Everyone thinks this kind of stuff just happened in places like Portland.”

Hoyle outlined a few key steps along the region’s path toward more sustainable transportation:

1. Coordinate between government agencies to create walkable development standards

Champaign-Urbana’s sustainable mobility push began with the adoption of a long-range plan in 2004. The plan was part of a collaborative effort by local municipalities, the regional planning agency, and the local transit authority.

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