Mapping How BRT Will Improve Access Along Ashland

Freemark's map. Dark blue shows new areas that will become accessible from Ashland/Cermak within 20 minutes once BRT is implemented.

In a recent blog post, Metropolitan Planning Council associate Yonah Freemark presented an ingenious visual that makes it obvious how BRT will dramatically improve transit access along the corridor.

Using data from Mapnificent, which shows the area you can reach with transit from any point in a given time, Freemark created a map that illustrates how the area of the city accessible within 20 minutes of the future Ashland/Cermak BRT stop will expand after the service launches. This location is a mile north of the halfway point of the proposed 16-mile route at31st Street. The regions shown in light blue are currently accessible by CTA trains and conventional buses, plus walking; the dark-blue areas will accessible once BRT is in effect.

One the Ashland BRT is in effect, CTA riders will be able to travel almost twice as far north or south from Ashland/Cermak in the same amount of time, since the new buses will run almost twice as fast as the current #9 Ashland bus, 15.9 mph instead of 8.7 mph. The dark-blue dots show that, because BRT will increase access to rail lines, new ‘L’ stations will become accessible within 20 minutes.


Existing—no BRT

Future—with BRT


Number of jobs accessible by transit within 20 minutes from Ashland and Cermak




88 percent increase

Number of people accessible by transit with jobs* within 20 minutes from Ashland and Cermak




77 percent increase

Number of jobs accessible by transit within 20 minutes from Ashland and Fullerton




103 percent increase 

Number of jobs accessible by transit within 20 minutes from Ashland and 63rd




83 percent increase 

Freemark also created the above table, using data from the U.S. Census Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics report, that shows how fast bus service will increase the number of jobs that are accessible within 20 minutes from Ashland/Cermak, as well as the number of potential employees who live within 20 minutes of the future station. Not only will there be 88 percent more jobs that employees can get to from the station in that timeframe, employers will also have a potential hiring pool that’s 77 percent larger within 20 minutes of the stop. The chart also shows that the number of accessible jobs will increase by 103 percent from Ashland/Fullerton and 83 percent from Ashland/63rd, stations that will come online during the second phase of BRT implementation.

Better mobility and access to job opportunities are compelling reasons to get behind the CTA’s plan, and Freemark’s map and chart help make these benefits obvious. “As people become more familiar with faster and more reliable BRT, support will surely grow,” he concludes. “It is likely that, as the city’s BRT project gets underway and the benefits of the transportation mode become obvious, the percentage of people on board with BRT will only increase.”

  • Alex Oconnor

    And all you have are your feelings to back you you. No evidence, not even prior studies of or analysis of past projects backs you up; but it feels so good to spout it.

    You have your own subsidized shiny toy, your personal car, that is subsidized at the expense to the rest of use over a public ROW and you feel entitled to that subsidization of your personal property. It’s the classsic “I’ve got mine, f@&K everyone else” entitlement personality disorder.

  • Alex Oconnor

    There are facts. The facts of the successful implementation of BRT in many , many instances in other cities. And then there are assertions of entitlement such as yours.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Yes. Bus tracker is a near God send. I wish I had it when I was 14 and waiting for the bus on Western on January mornings on my way to school

  • Alex Oconnor

    It truly is an utterly insurmountable challenge.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Simple. Alternative path. You will know before travelling on Ashland. The left turn issue is a red herring.

  • Hey folks, let’s keep the discourse civil and refrain from personal attacks. Here’s the Streetsblog commenting policy if you need a refresher:

  • Alex Oconnor

    I am honestly curious re those numbers do you have a link to them; I’ve been looking for a source

  • Kevin M

    Dude, what the hell are you talking about? Check your browser’s URL *right now*, we’re not on your fictitious blog site. Get real or get off this blog. You’re not helping the anti-BRT case at all.

  • Alex Oconnor

    “Lost time” however may be relevant to the time one is spending driving

  • Peter

    LOL…How do you think the BRT is going to be paid for?!? And I like my shiney. I’ve worked my tail off at my job to get where I am to afford my “shiney”

    keep keep’n on bro :-)
    a sum of money granted by the government or a public body to assist an industry or business so that the price of a commodity or service may remain low or competitive.

  • Kevin M

    Also, you’ve just confirmed that you are one person using multiple IDs to post to this site. How pathetic.

    Proof: “Peter” brings up the fictitious “jogging lane” scenario, I respond, then “TranspoGuy” opens with “**my** fictitious chi.jogthestreetsblog…” (emphasis mine on “my”). I guess you forgot which account you were logged in to when you responded to me.

    So there we have it, chi.strestsblog readers, another funny tactic played by the anti-BRT NIMBYs to try and make their case.

  • Anonymous

    He’s a delusional conspiracy theorist, dont feed him, just ignore.

  • TranspoGuy

    What? I think you are getting paranoid. I never said anything about jogging.

  • And the X54! It’s ridiculous that the whole west side has to either go downtown first or change busses on a snowy sidewalk to get to Midway (and everywhere else).

  • Kevin M

    Ah, I misread post-names. I retract what I accused–my mistake, and I apologize.

  • Kevin M

    Thanks for the link. This is a good starting point to learning about a problematic BRT implementation (for the record, I don’t believe we can say this has failed, as New Delhi’s BRT line is still up and running). Still, the article you referenced leaves a lot of open questions around what exactly are the issues causing problems with their BRT implementation.

  • Anonymous

    Hey now – I’m not anti-car. I’m pro-people and pro-efficient transportation. I am an occasional driver too. Also, I didn’t create the model.

  • John

    It is possible to be for BRT and be against travel lanes. We just have make on-street parking a lower priority.

  • John

    Against travel lane removal that is

  • Implementing BRT by removing parking instead of converting travel lanes would mean pedestrians would have to cross six lanes of moving traffic at unsignalized intersections. Parked cars also provide a safety buffer for people on the sidewalk. Removing large numbers of parking spaces could hurt merchants and would cost a bundle in CPM reimbursement fees. Also, for some reason people tend to freak out more about parking removals than lane conversions, so this would be a very heavy lift politically.

  • Jack

    I’m excited about the BRT but don’t understand why we also need the local bus. Seems like that’ll jam up the traffic lane with constant stopping every quarter mile. Why not just eliminate the local? Are there that many mobility-impaired individuals who would use it? Are the BRT stations not handicapped accessible?

  • Jack

    Also – why isn’t this extending up to Andersonville? I live in Noble Square and have many friends in Andersonville who I visit regularly in my car. The BRT would be amazing to get there instead of driving like I do now. I can take the Damen bus and walk east, but that takes forever.

  • This is partly due to opposition from residents on Ashland north of Irving Park to extending bus service north – it currently stops at Irving. Also a few blocks north of Irving, Ashland runs close to Clark Street, so the CTA feels BRT would be redundant here, although BRT will be a completely different animal than the notoriously slow Clark bus.

  • The local service will run less frequently, primarily for for people who are mobility impaired or don’t want to walk an extra block or two to the BRT stations. The BRT stations will be more wheelchair accessible than the current bus stations, since there will be level boarding, so you should be able to roll a wheelchair right on.

  • Alex Oconnor

    I agree with you Jack. I believe that BRT should continue at least to Ridge and preferably to the bus turn around / and former bus shed at Clark / Ashland split.

    When Western was still under consideration I made my consternation known to Ald OConnor about the BRT there stopping at Berwyn the far north side / West Ridge and Devon corridor could really use that type of transit connectivity. Not to mention Evanston’s plans to rebuild the Asbury stop on Yellow line.

  • Anonymous

    “he X9 was only 1.6 mph faster than the local buses”

    aka, almost 20% faster. So the dark blue area would be ~20% larger.

    Could just as well say: “BRT, with signal prioritization, and dedicated lanes etc will travel at barely more than 50% of the existing speed limit”. True, but misleading.

  • Anonymous


    Serious question:

    Where in Mexico City is the Metrobus corridor where:

    1. They retained curbside parking
    2. They retained local bus service on the same street
    3. They reduced the non-BRT travel lanes to a single lane.

    If there is NOT a Metrobus corridor like that, then there is NOT an actually similar layout to what is proposed for Ashland.

  • Anonymous

    “pedestrians would have to cross six lanes of moving traffic at unsignalized intersections.”

    The plan is to leave unmarked crosswalks across the BRT lanes at *EVERY* cross street? SERIOUSLY?

    Where do the people stand between the BRT lane and the remaining travel lane? Are islands really being put in? Got a link to the rendering of these unsignalized crossings? Are the BRT drivers going to have to (will they) stop for pedestrians in the unmarked crosswalks?

  • Anonymous

    So those who are mobility impaired or “don’t want to walk” will see their travel times radically increased.

    We *don’t* “need” the local bus, but it’s being cynically retained to avoid a source of opposition to the BRT plan. A stupid, short-sighted compromise. Rip the bandage off, and just cut the service out when the BRT is running, which is what is likely to happen in the future, anyway.

    But can’t have it as part of the plan from day one, bc another category of ‘anti’s would be activated.

  • Anonymous

    “This is partly due to opposition from residents on Ashland north of Irving Park”

    Call a NIMBY a NIMBY. Don’t want to have that fight, too, so just avoiding it, even tho the sensible thing is to have the damn BRT extend up to A’ville.

  • Nope, I completely agree with you that those folks are NIMBYs as well, and I would also like to see BRT extended up to Clark Street, as would the Active Transportation Alliance.

  • Al Lux

    The more I think about it, I don’t think there’s a justification for local bus service on Ashland if BRT goes in.

    If BRT happens, one would never be more than .25 of a mile from a stop, because the stops are every .5 miles right?

    Is it mean-spirited of me to say that if one cannot walk .25 miles than he/she should probably using paratransit?

    I don’t think it’s very wise from an operational perspective or general policy perspective to say that if there’s a bus route then people along that bus route should always be within .125 miles of a stop.

    Someone might be able to convince me otherwise with a compelling argument, but that’s my take on the situation right now.

  • Al Lux

    Some additional thoughts: if you make all Ashland bus users take the BRT, more people will take it and it will look like a better idea in the eyes of the general public. I don’t think this is to be taken lightly. This way, if there are lots of people on the BRT, you can have shorter headways and it will really look good for riders, potential riders, and the general public who have doubts about the purported benefits of the new service.

    Of course many would like there to be a bus stop just a few steps from their house, but I don’t think a .25 mile maximum walk is excessive. And if population is evenly distributed (which it probably isn’t, but just for the sake of argument) then at least 50% of people will actually have an 1/8 of a mile distance (.125 miles) to the bus stop (might actually be more, because I’m only talking about distances directly on Ashland).

    If someone is physically unable to walk .25 miles, then I think the paratransit must enter the discussion. With only one travel lane it could be a major headache if the vehicle stop and wait on Ashland ave, so this needs to be thought out well.

  • Anonymous

    All the mileages you guys are giving assume that the user is starting from a place on Ashland itself, as opposed to a couple blocks east or west. Nonetheless, I’m inclined to agree.

  • Fred

    Let’s say that I live on Racine, 1/2 mile due east of an Ashland bus stop and that I commute daily using the 9 bus. Now lets say that stop is eliminated due to it not being one of the half mile stop and I now have to walk an extra quarter mile to get on the same bus. Now my half mile walk is a 3/4 mile walk. Is adding 1/4 mile the same in those 2 scenarios? Is turning a 0min walk into a 5min walk the same as turning a 10min walk into a 15min walk?

  • Al Lux

    I realize this scenario is a possibility. I don’t have a good answer, I guess I’ll let the message board comment on the wisdom or shortsightedness of a scenario where there is BRT but no local service.

    The only reply I can give is that this scenario emphasizes that if there is BRT and no local there absolutely has to be 1) short headways) 2) a schedule and 3) fast travel speed. That’s the only consolation I can give someone who has to walk longer to the bus.

  • Fred

    Both ends of the trip being affected should also be taken into account. Your start and end could both now be 1/4mi from a bus stop, so that extra .25mi walk is on both ends.

    I agree the consolation could be that while adding 10min of walking, you are spending 10 fewer min on the bus so the net trip length is the same. But this is removing mobility impairments from the equation.

  • Anonymous

    Al: It’s just about minimizing dissent on the front end. The fewer things you change, the fewer people have non “NIMBY” objections.

    Thus, we get a crap proposal that:

    1. Preserves local bus service, to keep the mobility-imparied and their (generally admirable) advocates from objecting.
    2. Preserves curbside parking, to keep business owners and free-riding neighborhood car owners from complaining, and also minimizes relocated meters, avoiding possible city-wide complaints.
    3. Apparently preserves the ability of pedestrians to cross the street at any damn fool spot, to keep the neighbors and businesses from objecting.
    4. Avoids discussing the undeniably sensible extension of the BRT north of IPR to A’ville, to avoid objections from Graceland West, Ravenswood and Andersonville residents.

    So, it’s a proposal designed to offend the fewest number of people, rather than to be the best possible (yet still realistic–no plowing down homes, no grade separation, etc etc) proposal.

    Here’s another question: If pedestrian crossing access is to be maintained at non-signalized intersections (*INSANE!*; we want to avoid people crossing train tracks at non-signaled locations, why should BRT be different?), there will be a very tasty 20+ foot wide spot in the middle of Ashland, which will frequent spot for left-turning cars to sit until the single lane of traffic lets them in–was that calculated into the average running time? Or is the plan to leave just a sidewalk-width gap, and make all cars wanting to cross Ashland do so *only* at signalized intersections? Or will it be traffic cameras, road acne signs (‘Don’t block the BRT $500 Fine + 2 Points’), and draconian enforcement?

    I will note that I (as a regular driver) would be pretty supportive of pretty aggressive limits on left turns onto/off of Ashland and/or Western, but *only* if there is some provision of left/U turn lanes/signals (which are sensor-timed, not fixed 7-second timed) at significant intersections AND elimination of local bus service in those areas. But CDOT *hates* left turns, left turn signals, and sensor-based signals for some combination of “reasons”.

  • Al Lux

    i agree, it’s complicated

  • Anonymous

    So, left out of this proposal for political purposes, in hopes that they West Graceland/Ravenswood/A’ville potential opponents won’t notice that the obvious plan is to extend it to at least Ridge/Peterson as soon as it’s extended to IPR, hoping that by then it will be a fait accompli and they can all be branded dirty NIMBYs with little effort.

  • Anonymous

    “Now lets say that stop is eliminated due to it not being one of the half mile stop and I now have to walk an extra quarter mile to get on the same bus.”

    But you aren’t getting on “the same bus”, bc now it’s BRT.

    In any event, is there anyplace on Racine that is more than 1/4 mile from an e-w bus that would take one to a BRT stop, or a Halsted bus that would also connect one to other transit lines? Or do we have to start adding el stops every 1/4 mile so that no one has to make a transfer to get on rapid transit?

    IF (big IF) BRT is supposed to be genuinely *rapid* transit, we should treat it as such, and not act like we *must* retain a local bus option running in conjunction with the rapid transit.

  • Al Lux

    this is an interesting point. I agree.

  • Al Lux

    Maybe I am thinking about this in a weird way, but could it be that the CTA is actually be holding on to the idea of local serivce because it is ultimately a bargaining chip to see the BRT project through? In other words, down the road it may be that the pro-BRT and anti-BRT sides are arguing and CTA says, “ok, ok, fine, we’ll give up local service on Ashland, we’ve made a concession, now are you happy?”

    Out of curiosity, do people think it would be politically feasible to have BRT only and no local bus on Ashland?

  • TranspoGuy


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