More Logic-Free Statements About BRT From Alderman Cardenas

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George Cardenas.

12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas has said plenty of backwards stuff about the Ashland bus rapid transit plan, in the Tribune, on Chicago Tonight, and on Twitter. With his latest comments in today’s DNAinfo piece on BRT, Cardenas shows just how little he understands the project he’s been criticizing.“I don’t want my community to be bypassed,” he told reporter Casey Cora. “We want traffic to stop. We want to develop retail so people can stop and not just kind of wave [at the neighborhood] as they go by.”

The alderman argued that motorists will be unable to make spontaneous stops at businesses due to the prohibition of most left turns from Ashland. “Say you’re driving and want to stop and get a cup of coffee. It’s going to be difficult to do that. You can’t stop. [This plan] pushes you into the side streets and you’ll say ‘Screw it, I’m not going to do it.”

Cardenas is assuming that motorists need direct access to the curb right in front of their destination. He’s missing the big picture of how people get where they want to go on city streets. 90 percent of the on-street parking on the street will be retained, so it will still be easy for motorists to make spontaneous stops at shops on the same side of the street or – gasp! – park and walk across Ashland to patronize businesses on the other side. Meanwhile, for pre-planned stops, it will be easy for drivers to choose routes that don’t require lefts from Ashland.

Yes, there will be fewer cars on Ashland, but that has little bearing on people’s ability to reach destinations on the street. Car access to businesses on a wide street like Ashland depends much, much more on the number of parking spots and turnover rate than the number of through lanes, which mainly allow drivers to go through the corridor, not stop along it.

More to the point, the number of autos accessing retail districts is far less important than the number of shoppers. With more buses, running on a reliable timetable and almost twice as fast, plus safer, more pleasant conditions for walking, foot traffic will increase and more shoppers will be able to reach Ashland. Look at other places that have shifted car lanes to transit lanes, and the benefits for local businesses are clear.

Yesterday, Cardenas tweeted another bizarre idea about transit, after City Notes blogger Daniel Hertz questioned the alderman about an earlier tweet claiming the BRT plan is “out of left field”:

Interesting concept. As Hertz pointed out, using smaller buses would require spending money on a new fleet, plus hundreds of new drivers. But it’s not clear how that would make the buses run faster, unless they’re skinny enough to slip between lanes of car traffic. Setting science fiction solutions aside, if we’re serious about making surface transit as good as it should be, the only real answer is to give buses a dedicated lane, which is why the BRT plan makes so much sense, and why all of Cardenas’ comments are so absurd.

  • B00m G0es the Dynamite

    It’s scary to think that this guy owns a business consulting firm. He shows no signs of critical thinking.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Indicia that the lies that Mr Romanelli and his AWC trade in have been effective in misleading some of our pols into misguided policy beliefs

  • cjlane

    “there will be fewer cars on Ashland, but that has little bearing on people’s ability to reach destinations on the street. Car access to businesses on a wide street like Ashland depends much, much more on the number of parking spots and turnover rate”

    You’re trying to have it both ways–there are going to be ~65,000 fewer cars on Ashland, and that won’t affect things, so long as those fewer cars can still park? C’mon. NOTE: I’m *all for* making every single remaining spot on Ashland a metered spot, which would improve the available parking. Residents on an near Ashland may object, tho.

    “More to the point, the number of autos accessing retail districts is far less important than the number of shoppers.”

    BRT is projected to add 10,000 people daily on transit, while reducing Ashland use by about 100,000 overall. So, minus 90,000 on the number of people *on* Ashland, which will require a huge uptick in pedestrian use.

  • So you think parking occupancy will plummet?

  • Alex Oconnor

    Because we know that cars often go shopping when those cars reach their destination. And here I thought it was people who spent money when shopping ….silly me.

  • cjlane

    John is the one who used ‘cars’. That first quote in my comment is *directly* from the article. Take it up with Greenfield.

  • cjlane

    Nope. I think that John wants to talk about “cars” when it suits his point, and about “people” when it suits his point.

    Here, he says “Car access … depends much, much more on the number of parking spots and turnover rate” which is true, but he ignores that ~90,000 fewer **people** (yes, not counting the doubtless increase in walkers, but I won’t believe it will be more than the 10,000 extra bus users without evidence–go ahad and call it 80k fewer) will be using Ashland as a route. So, the 30% fewer users’ access will depend more on whether or not there is parking turnover–agreed, but not really the point that underlies the (obvious absurdity about ‘left turns’) put forward by Cardenas.

  • That’s not what you appear to be arguing in your first comment, where you contend that there will be a huge net decrease in total trips involving Ashland, and therefore pain for retail businesses.

  • Alex Oconnor

    Because we all know that all those cars crawling by in rush hour traffic to get to the Ike or to the Kennedy all stop along Ashland to do the shopping that cars apparently do in your universe.

  • cjlane

    ” the shopping that cars apparently do”

    Again IT WAS GREENFIELD WHO WROTE THAT!!! Take it up with John. [what I feel like typing excluded to not irritate John].

  • cjlane

    “where you contend that there will be a huge net decrease in total trips involving Ashland”

    Um, have you looked at any of the studies? That point is *COMPLETELY* clear. There will be a substantial reduction in the *person* use of the Ashland R-O-W. There are going to be 10,000 more bus riders, but about 65,000 fewer trips.

    “pain for retail businesses”

    Maybe, maybe not. John is arguing that, even with over 50,000 fewer person trips, there won’t be ‘pain’, so long as those fewer cars can park. He may well be right, but I think that is eliding the (deeply buried and *very* poorly conveyed) point that *might* be underlying Cardenas’s blather.

  • Did John elide Cardenas’s silly point about left turns? No, he directly addressed it. Then he pulled back the lens to make a broader point about how access to urban streets functions. Cardenas’s comments are about customer access to Ashland, so I don’t see why you would take issue with this.

    You, meanwhile, never said anything in your first comment about John skirting Cardenas’s point. You simply seemed incredulous that a large reduction in vehicle trips on Ashland won’t affect businesses.

  • cjlane

    You simply are arguing with strawmen, Ben.

    Which I take to mean that you have no point.

    Cardenas is a buffoon. Focus on the buffoonery, if you like.

  • Matheis

    TED Talks: Enrique Peñalosa: Why buses represent democracy in action

    In this spirited talk, the former mayor of Bogotá shares some of the tactics he used to change the transportation dynamic in the Colombian capital… and suggests ways to think about building smart cities of the future.

  • Adam Herstein

    Stopping for a cup of coffee while driving a car isn’t so easy —you’d still have to search for street parking and likely not park directly in front of the business anyway.

    Mr. Cardenas should see this BRT project not as an attack on cars, but as leveling the playing field for the significant portion of people who don’t drive.


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