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The Virtues of Repurposing Car Lanes for Buses

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Slate business and economics correspondent Matt Yglesias ran an item today that nails the issue at the crux of the battle for the soul of Ashland Avenue. The CTA has proposed converting two of the travel lanes on the four-lane street to dedicated bus lanes, but the anti-BRT crowd is fighting the plan to take away space from cars and give it to people on buses. The Nimbys have floated their own proposal, disingenuously called “Modern Express Buses,” that would involve plenty of window dressing but keep buses bogged down in traffic, with zero inconvenience for drivers. Yglesias points out the virtues of reconfiguring streets like Ashland:

But the biggest possibility for bus transit wins requires something even more contentious than spending money—repurposing lanes. Virtually every street in America dedicates the majority of its space to private cars, whether as travel lanes or parking lanes. Far and away the cheapest way to speed the movement of people through congested space is to take some of those lanes away from cars and give them to buses. That will decrease your movement of vehicles, but increase your movement of people since buses are a much more efficient use of space. And it can be done at a fraction of the cost of building new transportation infrastructure from scratch.

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Hopefully, as more Chicagoans come to understand the value of repurposing lanes from cars and giving them to bus riders, support will grow for making historic changes to Ashland, and the weak-sauce MEB proposal will end up on the dustbin of history.

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