Join Us for the Ashland BRT Advocate Social and Pub Stroll on October 15

Get your free button at the BRT social.

You’ve got to hand it to them, Roger Romanelli and his Ashland-Western Coalition anti-bus rapid transit group have done an effective job of organizing residents who oppose the CTA’s plan for fast, reliable transit on Ashland Avenue, garnering plenty of media attention. Now it’s time for some of Chicago’s 1,800-plus registered BRT supporters to become as visible and vocal as the NIMBYs.

Are you part of the quiet masses who want to see bus speeds nearly doubled on Ashland, with higher transit ridership, fewer cars, and less speeding by drivers? Do you support better connections to jobs, schools and medical appointments for tens of thousands of Chicagoans? Are you interested in safer pedestrian crossings, broader sidewalks and more green space on the street, which, along with the enhanced bus access, will result in more vibrant retail strips and higher property values?

If so, join Streetsblog Chicago and the Active Transportation Alliance for an Ashland BRT advocate social and BeeRT pub stroll on Tuesday, October 15, 5:30 p.m. at the Cobra Lounge, 235 North Ashland, just north of the Ashland/Lake ‘L’ stop. The event is free and open to the public. Enjoy complimentary appetizers courtesy of Active Trans while you share your enthusiasm for better transit with like-minded folks, get your photo taken with an interactive BRT poster and sign the petition endorsing the plan, if you haven’t already done so. Alliance staffers will make a short presentation about ways you can help support BRT, and the next steps for winning the battle over the future of Ashland. We’ll also have free “I [heart] Bus Rapid Transit” buttons, designed by Streetsblog and funded by the alliance.

BRT supporters at Open Streets on Milwaukee Avenue. Photo: Brenna Conway, Active Trans

At 7 p.m., Steven Vance and I will lead a walk south down Ashland, checking out existing conditions on the four- and six-lane roadway and discussing how BRT will help create a safer, more efficient and more liveable street. By coincidence, we’ll be passing by the First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 West Washington, headquarters of the AWC, but we will maintain a respectful distance from the historic building. The .7-mile stroll will end at the Park Tavern gastropub, 1645 West Jackson. From there it’s a five-minute walk to the Blue Line’s Illinois Medical District stop.

Frustrated by the misinformation being spread about BRT by the AWC and other opponents? Don’t get angry, get organized. Help us provide a show of strength from some of the thousands of Chicagoans who want to see Ashland reconfigured to become a more sensible, equitable and humane street.

If you like, RSVP for the event on Facebook here.

  • Adam Herstein

    Sounds like fun! I’ll be there!

  • CL

    I should go and bring a big sign that says, “Also, it should be extended to Edgewater.” Where do you recommend parking? (Kidding. . . sort of. . .)

  • Anonymous

    “safer pedestrian crossings”

    So, the non-signalized crossings *will* be eliminated??

  • The non-signalized pedestrian crossings will not be eliminated, although the non-signalized vehicle crossings may be. There’s no reason this would be any less safe than the current situation, probably more so. Check out this Streetview of Ashland/Ohio, where vehicle crossing is currently not permitted but ped crossing is:

    In general, crossing Ashland on foot will become safer because the median stations will double as refuge islands.

  • Hey, I don’t have a problem with you driving to the event if you really need to do so. Part of the goal of the BRT project is eliminating *unnecessary* car trips so everyone can get where they need to go efficiently. There’s plenty of curbside parking on Ashland near the Cobra.

  • CL

    Just reducing it to two lanes of car traffic would make a big difference for pedestrians. Right now, if a driver stops at a crosswalk, all the cars behind her immediately swerve into the other lane and keep going.

  • Bob O’Neill

    Ashland BRT is a great idea. NIMBYs do not understand sound urban planning and
    the need to move people more efficiently and effectively without so many
    cars. More public transit, more and higher-quality bike lanes,
    tree-lined streets designed around
    pedestrians = a much more livable, economically-viable and eco-friendly city, period! We spent billions of dollars designing around and
    subsiding cars and it has failed, let’s move forward with better transportation
    projects for moving people.

  • There’s usually a lot of curbside parking at Cobra Lounge on Fulton, right out front.

  • Anonymous

    So, John, the BRT will stop for pedestrians (that IS the law; and there is NOT an exemption for buses)? Will there be islands big enough to safely stand on (with a stroller) between the remaining travel lane and the BRT lane (not that there should need to be, as the BRT will stop for the pedestrian in the crosswalk, right??)?

    “the non-signalized vehicle crossings may be”

    If they aren’t this is one more reason that this is a kludge of a proposal. And if they are to be, but no one wants to discuss that until the last second, it’s another example of the hide-the-ball promotion of this project.

  • Anonymous

    “NIMBYs do not understand sound urban planning”

    Not everyone who disagrees with you is a NIMBY and not everyone who you label a NIMBY doesn’t understand urban planning.

  • Yes, BRT buses will stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, at least as much as vehicles currently do at unsignalized intersections. Crosswalks will be upgraded to high-visibility zebra stripes, which will help with this issue. No, there probably won’t be pedestrian refuge islands between every single lane of traffic, which might be excessive, but the medians will be wide enough to shelter people with strollers from traffic.

    Just because the CTA hasn’t nailed down every detail of the project yet, such as whether or not cars will be allowed to cross at unsignalized intersections, doesn’t mean they’re hiding the ball. The environmental assessment should be released this month, and they’ve still planning a lot of community input sessions that will have an influence on the final plan.

  • Anonymous

    “BRT buses will stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, at least as much as vehicles currently do at unsignalized intersections”

    So, you mean to say that they will do so extremely rarely. Seems to me that the unsignalized crossings will become more dangerous for pedestrians.

    “doesn’t mean they’re hiding the ball.”

    Also doesn’t mean they aren’t. Perhaps I am too skeptical about the way Chicago does things, but perhaps the rest of you are just too trusting.

  • Anonymous

    They unconditionally trust when they vehemently support whatever the project is.

  • Why do feel that unsignalized intersections will become more dangerous to pedestrians? The sidewalks will be widened, shortening crossing distances. They’ll get new refuge islands in the median and high-visibility zebra-stripe crosswalks. And if drivers are not allowed to cross at these intersections, that means that peds won’t have to worry about being struck by vehicles turning left onto Ashland from side streets.

    Please explain: what would the downside be for pedestrians?

  • Yes, this is the major reason I walk to signalized intersections on Ashland now. With one car lane in each direction it will be many times safer to cross without having to go to a signalized intersection.

  • Anonymous

    During your walk, please note the worn out cross walks at most intersections. If pedestrian safety was really an issue, the city would at least re-stripe the worn out cross walks. Some crosswalks are barely there. By the way, what statistics do you have that shows Ashland Avenue any more dangerous to pedestrians than any of the other major boulevards in the city?

  • Anonymous

    None of this will matter when traffic has ground to a halt for most of the day. Pedestrians will easily be able to cross just about anywhere.

  • Have you noticed that as part of every repaving project CDOT puts in new high-visibility, zebra-stripe crosswalks? No one’s arguing that Ashland is any more dangerous to pedestrians than any other major arterials in the city. They all should be improved, but we gotta start somewhere.

  • Anonymous

    So in other words… if we want CDOT to re-stripe our crosswalks, we need to have a repaving project that proceeds it.

    So the ghostly remains of crosswalks that barely exist, that could, in theory, aid in pedestrian safety is just not part of any current plan to improve pedestrian safety. We have to wait for BRT. And once BRT exists, the maintenance and upkeep… who knows.

    As for your statement at “no one’s arguing that Ashland is any more dangerous to pedestrians”, one must query why in almost every posting you and your compatriots make, there is a constant drumbeat that Ashland must be calmed and promotion of pedestrian safety is a benefit of BRT. If Ashland Avenue is such an “uncalm” street, please compare it to other four lane thoroughfares and provide statistics to show that it is any more dangerous.

    When you make such statements, I would expect that these statements would have some kind of factual basis.

  • Nope, repaving projects are just one way crosswalks get upgraded, but obviously CDOT can’t instantly restripe every crosswalk in town. If there are particular crosswalks you’ve noticed that need to be fixed, including on Ashland, since BRT won’t happen for a few years, call 311 and/or contact your alderman to report them.

    We’re not arguing that it’s any more important to improve ped safety on Ashland than other arterials, just pointing out that improved walking conditions will be one of the many benefits of the Ashland project.

  • Anonymous

    I have called 311 and my alderperson. However, I am told there is no money in the budget since crosswalk re-striping has been outsourced to a 3rd party.

    Benefit of BRT for pedestrians is probably negligible since there is no statistical analysis that shows that crossing Ashland is any more dangerous than that of other similar streets. If safety was the issue and the pedestrian death toll and injuries were significant, we’d have re-striped crosswalks. The public would demand it. But bogus traffic camera’s seem to be a higher priority.

    Frankly, after a year or two of wear and tear, I doubt seriously if there will be any devoted up keep and maintenance of Ashland crosswalks after BRT, should one look to the city’s ability to even keep up bike lane re-striping.

  • Anonymous

    Please explain how you can:
    1) widen sidewalks
    2) maintain parking
    3) have a BRT lane
    4) have a traffic lane

    Is it physics or magic?

  • Travel lanes will be narrowed, which will help discourage speeding.

  • Anonymous

    One has to question how far $160 million dollars can stretch? To take out perfectly good sidewalks, curbs and storm sewers along both sides of Ashland Avenue for miles and rip them up and replace them for possibly two feet of extra sidewalk space???? At a time when the city can barely afford to fix infustructure on its other many miles of streets???? Plus you must also consider the repairs needed to Western Avenue in order to be able to handle massively more traffic???? (Where are all those trucks going to go?)

    You can talk all you want about livability and walk ability, but at some point taxpayers and businesses are going to hit the tipping point and flee the city because the taxes will no longer support this kind of crazy nonsense.

  • Streets periodically undergo full-depth reconstruction, which involves resetting utility lines and drainage, so this is work that would need to be done sooner or later anyway. The vast majority of the money will be coming from federal transportation grants, which can only be used to build new infrastructure, not fix existing infrastructure.

    As we’ve frequently discussed on Streetsblog, vehicles that need to access Ashland, such as delivery trucks, will still be able to do so. For example, the left-turn prohibition will require relative minor route adjustments – delivery companies like UPS already plan their routes to avoid left turns in order to save gas and time.

    Once buses as traveling comparably fast as cars, many Chicagoans will choose to avoid the costs and headaches of driving by switching car trips to transit trips. Others will opt not to make unnecessary car trips. Some of the remaining Ashland car trips will be diverted to other streets, but Chicago’s dense street grid is more than capable of absorbing this without causing a significant rise in congestion on any one street.

    You’re right, Western is the most obvious alternative to Ashland since it’s a four-lane, but other nearby streets like Halsted, Damen and California will also pick up some of the slack, so there won’t be a massive increase in traffic on Western.

    Repurposing car lanes for BRT is not some kind of pie-in-the-sky, out-there proposal that’s never been done before. It’s been done with great results in cities all over the world, including U.S. cities like New York and Cleveland. I suggest you check out the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s report The BRT Standard to check out some of the success stories:

  • Anonymous

    “what would the downside be for pedestrians?”

    Buses that are *expecting* and *expected* to not have to stop between bus stops. Have you seriously never encountered the CTA bus drivers who act like *everyone* must yield to them under all circumstances? Even if there were camera-based enforcement of the requirement to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk, CTA drivers don’t have to pay their tickets, so the mook-drivers (who are, to be clear, not nearly all of the drivers) will just keep going, unyielding to pedestrians.

  • Anonymous

    “Streets periodically undergo full-depth reconstruction”

    Um, when was the last time in Chicago that even *one* mile of a city street (*not* a state/US highway) got a ‘full depth reconstruction’? Serious question, as I have *never, ever* seen it, but I freely admit to not knowing every street around the city.

    “The vast majority of the money will be coming from federal transportation grants, which can only be used to build new infrastructure, not fix existing infrastructure.”

    I don’t get this–you’re saying that the ‘full-depth reconstruction’ constitutes ‘new’ infrastructure, including the fixing/upgrading of utility lines and drainage? If not, then where are the $$ coming from for the fixing/upgrading of utility lines and drainage, and what will that cost? Or is the plan for *not* a ‘full-depth reconstruction’, in which case, I don’t understand the point of mentioning it.

    “Repurposing car lanes for BRT is not some kind of pie-in-the-sky, out-there proposal that’s never been done before.”

    I still can’t find anyplace where it’s been done with same components as here (retained curbside parking, single retained lane of auto travel, retained local bus service on the same route). Any luck with that analogous scenario, John?

    “Halsted, Damen and California will also pick up some of the slack, so there won’t be a massive increase in traffic on Western.”

    There won’t be ‘massive’ increases on Western, bc at peak times it already runs at capacity, and can’t have a meaningful (nevermind massive) increase in vehicles per hour.

  • Part of the reason for that kind of behavior by CTA bus drivers is that they’re currently under pressure to keep up with a schedule, so after they get stuck in traffic they need to make up for lost time. BRT will eliminate that kind of rushing, as well as bus bunching, because it will be easy for drivers to keep a consistent schedule.

    There likely will be camera enforcement of the bus-only lanes, so this would also catch any dangerous behavior by bus drivers. In general, the CTA does pay traffic tickets by drivers, so they have a financial incentive to discipline drivers who get tickets for dangerous driving.

    For the reasons above, it seems doubtful that there will be a rise in bus drivers failing to yield to pedestrians, and the BRT plan’s many benefits for walker will make this a major win for pedestrians as well as transit riders.

  • Anonymous

    “Benefit of BRT for pedestrians is probably negligible since there is no statistical analysis that shows that crossing Ashland is any more dangerous than that of other similar streets.”


    That’s not a reasonable comparison. Streets with 100′ of crossing distance are ‘more dangerous’ than streets with 50′ of crossing distance, even if most pedestrian injuries occur on the narrower streets bc (1) there are many, many multiples of 50′ crossings compared to 100′ crossings, and (2) the inherent difficulty of crossing the 100′ streets reduces the frequency of the crossings, especially at non-signalized intersections. And the plan is to make Ashland into two 50′ crossings everywhere, which *should* make for a more pleasant (and probably safer) pedestrian crossing experience (at least in the absence of slush on the streets).

    And, really, the argument is (or should be) that the street crossing experience will be *improved* rather than (necessarily) made safer by the BRT-related changes.

    And as things go with such changes, it may end up (may not, too) that there are *more* pedestrian injuries, even with a much lower *rate* of injuries (from the pedestrian-side; rate per vehicle will go up, even with reduced injuries, bc auto volume is going to go down by as much as 40%), bc there are more pedestrians crossing Ashland.

  • Anonymous

    “Travel lanes will be narrowed”

    Okay, as usual, I dunno enough about Ashland south of about Grand or Chicago, but how are we fitting everything, even with narrower travel lanes, along with the 3 medians, and retained parking from, say, 2600 N to IPR? The travel lanes are already only 9′.

    And I get that the existing medians are going to get reduced a bit (or more) in some places.

  • I believe that most of the time a streetscape project takes place, which is a pretty common occurrence, there’s a full-depth reconstruction. For example, one is going on right now on Lawrence between Ashland and Western.

    The majority of the Ashland project will be new infrastructure, so any upgrades to existing infrastructure will be rolled into the project.

    There may not be a BRT corridor that’s exactly like Ashland, just like most existing BRT corridors are unique in some way. Mexico City’s system has a similar layout as Ashland, and the local bus service on Ashland will be so infrequent, maybe only once or twice an hour, it won’t be much of a factor.

    You previously wrote, “Plus you must also consider the repairs needed to Western Avenue in order to be able to handle massively more traffic????” But what you just posted now is correct, “there won’t be ‘massive’ increases on Western.”

  • Anonymous

    “In general, the CTA does pay traffic tickets by drivers, so they have a financial incentive to discipline drivers who get tickets for dangerous driving.”

    But they are hamstrung by the contract. Very little discipline is allowed. It’s a real problem.

    “Part of the reason for that kind of behavior by CTA bus drivers is that they’re currently under pressure to keep up with a schedule”

    And the other part of it is some of them are overly aggressive, dangerous drivers, operating what is often the largest vehicle on the road, under protection of their contract, which makes it difficult to properly incentivize safer driving.

    “There likely will be camera enforcement of the bus-only lanes”

    That will require legislative action at the state level, just as the re-light and speed cameras did. City can’t just do that.

  • Anonymous

    “You previously wrote”

    Um, that’s not me, John. There really is more than one person here posing questions about Ashland BRT as it is being marketed.

    “I believe that most of the time a streetscape project takes place, which is a pretty common occurrence, there’s a full-depth reconstruction.”

    Irving Park streetscape–No. Clark streetscape–No.

    Haven’t been on Lawrence lately, so you may be correct about that one. They did replace the water main (see: ), but that’s still not a ‘full-depth reconstruction” to me, who once worked on a road crew, and has seen full reconstruction of a road–they trenched for the water main, didn’t replace the sewer line, and are retaining the old road bed, from what I have seen.

    Question remains: How is that “new infrastructure” to fit within the federal funding requirement that you stated? Seems like repair to me, but expecting federal regulations to use the plain meaning for words is often a bad idea.

  • Sorry about the mix-up. Yes, you are correct, the project won’t lead to a massive increase in cars on Western.

    The new infrastructure will include the new bus stations, medians, bus lanes, etc. Widening sidewalks, rather than just rebuilding them as-is, may also be eligible for federal transportation grants. I don’t know the details offhand, but I believe a certain amount of replacement of existing infrastucture is OK for these kind of grants as long as the majority of the project is creating something new.

  • Peter

    Once i saw a watermain repair on Lake Street around Damen. I believe they did a full depth pavement replacement over the watermain trench :-)

  • Peter

    Bhaaaa…. follow the sheeple…

  • Anonymous

    “over the watermain trench” = future crappy asphalt surface.

    Might just be talking past on terminology, but to me, “full-depth reconstruction” is like what they did to the Kennedy ~20 years ago–strip it down to the road bed, fix everything underneath, rebuild roadbed, all new concrete, etc.

    And, I take it back, there is one I know about in Chicago: Kingsbury from Halsted to North. Forgot about that one. But they aren’t doing that to Lawrence, and I doubt that’s the plan for Ashland (but I am open to surprise).

  • Peter

    I completely agree… I was joking :-)

  • Anonymous

    I read past (or, don’t rely on) emoticons, so played it straight, with acknowledgement that John might mean something different from what I was thinking of.

    Our residential street got new sewer AND water mains a few years ago. They just patched the trenches–which was, admittedly, about 50% of the whole street, but that almost makes it worse that they didn’t just do it right..

  • AgainstAshlandBus

    This is a joke, reducing Ashland to one lane in each direction is disaster ! Add to it the elimination of left hand turns, which results in more cars on the local streets. Nice idea, but totally not reasonable. What a waste of money, fix the streets and improve the traffic lights.


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