Sun-Times Editorial Writer Gets BRT, Even If Its Transpo Reporter Doesn’t

Sun-Times reporter Rosalind Rossi interviewing BRT opponents. Photo: John Greenfield

After running a not-as-terrible-as-expected piece on Ashland BRT earlier this week, Sun-Times transportation reporter Rosalind Rossi regressed with her write-up of Tuesday night’s info session hosted by the Chicago Grand Neighbors Association, titled “Backers of Ashland bus rapid transit plan object to left-turn ban.” First of all, Streetsblog contributor Lindsay Bayley tells me that she was the only BRT advocate at the meeting who even brought up the possibility of allowing some additional left turns by motorists, so “backers” is inaccurate. Secondly, Bayley says she was simply suggesting the city consider adding a signal phase at some intersections where drivers in the right lane would be permitted to make a left while the center-running buses have a red, although this would slow the buses.

“I know that [the CTA has to] severely limit left turns,” Bayley told me afterwards. “I’m not opposed to that. It just seems like the left turns that they have allotted are only at highways and maybe they could throw in one or two on local intersections with something creative like a “hook” turn… I’m just throwing ideas out there to see if we can address some of the major concerns [from Ashland corridor residents].”

The Q & A session at Tuesday's BRT meeting. Photo: Kristen Maddox

But Rossi’s article begins, “Even some supporters of a plan to put dedicated bus lanes in the center of Ashland Avenue joined opponents Tuesday night in criticizing a ban on almost all left turns on such a major street.” Essentially, she misunderstood a quote and turned it into the major theme of her story, implying that the CTA plan is so radical that even sustainable transportation advocates have misgivings about it.

In fairness, DNAInfo reporter Alisa Hauser, whose transportation articles are generally far more accurate and balanced than Rossi’s, made a similar error in her otherwise solid meeting writeup. “Even supporters of the plan, such as Noble Square resident Lindsay Bayley, questioned the ban on left turns,” she wrote. After I shared Bayley’s explanation with Hauser, the DNA post was edited accordingly. It goes to show, it pays to keep your comments simple when you’re speaking in front of reporters.

Coming on the heels of Rossi’s tone-deaf writeup, today’s Sun-Times editorial on BRT was surprisingly well researched and written. It’s a guarded endorsement of the CTA’s plan, acknowledging that fast, efficient transit is what’s needed to keep Chicago moving forward, even if it means taking away space from cars.

CTA rendering of typical layout of BRT stations on Ashland.

Granted, the headline “Rapid transit buses not there yet,” makes it sound like this will be an anti-BRT piece. However the author does an excellent job of outlining the potential benefits of BRT for residents, and deserves kudos for pointing out that the autocentric status quo isn’t going to cut it in the future. “Chicago is one of the most congested places in the country, and to ease that congestion and boost the city’s economy, public transit must be given priority over cars,” the piece argued.

The editorial debunked the Ashland-Western Coalition NIMBY group’s claim that its “Modern Express Bus” counter-proposal, essentially bringing back the old, slow #X9 Ashland Express bus with extra stops, plus some expensive bells and whistles, is a more sensible alternative to BRT. “Some business owners prefer resurrecting the express buses that once ran along Ashland, which wouldn’t require closing two lanes to cars,” it stated. “But express buses improve travel times only about 15 percent.”

Altogether, this editorial is a breath of fresh air compared to Rossi’s generally backward coverage of sustainable transportation issues. It would be great to see the concepts from this piece incorporated into future Sun-Times BRT articles.


Ashland Bus Rapid Transit NIMBYs Try to Win Over Aldermen

The BRT NIMBYs are at it again. In January, the Ashland-Western Coalition, a consortium of chambers of commerce and community development groups on the Near West Side, hosted a public meeting where business owners panicked that the CTA’s plan to build bus rapid transit on Ashland would ruin them. Earlier this month the coalition announced […]

Debating Bus Rapid Transit With the Ashland-Western Coalition

Guest contributor Lindsay Bayley lives with her husband in the Noble Square neighborhood, steps from the future Ashland bus rapid transit corridor, and is a year-round bicycle commuter. She works as a senior planner with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), specializing in parking policy. The views expressed here do not represent CMAP’s stance […]

The Suburbanophile: Renn Praises Chicago Big-Boxes, Pans Ashland BRT

Aaron Renn, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor at City Journal, writes the popular blog The Urbanophile, and sometimes his articles are right on the money. For example Streetblog NYC reporter Stephen Miller tells me Renn was justified in complaining about the high cost of New York infrastructure projects in a Daily News op-ed […]