Officials to unveil bus rapid transit plan

  • By Amy Lee
  • Transit reporter
  • September 23, 2008 @ 5:30 PM

Officials with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Transit Authority this week are scheduled to release details on a burgeoning bus rapid transit plan designed to ease congestion and speed travel time on major corridors throughout the city.

The plan calls for an infrastructural overhaul on portions of four routes: #8 Halsted, #66 Chicago, #79 79th, #14 Jeffery Express and #15 Jeffery Local. Bus rapid transit includes the creation of bus-only lanes, fewer stops and installation of technology that can alter the timing of traffic lights to keep buses moving.

CDOT and CTA officials will present details of the plan and take public comments and questions during two evening public hearings. They are scheduled to be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 Ingleside and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Near North branch of the Chicago Public Library, 310 W. Division.

The city is poised to receive $153 million in federal dollars to implement the bus rapid transit plan, which would start with about 10 miles of bus-only lanes. Mayor Richard M. Daley has said the plan could expand to more than 100 miles if the program proves successful.

The agencies are expected to begin rolling out the bus rapid transit program in 2009, and the CTA claims all four pilot routes will be up and running by 2010, officials say. The federal grant requires program implementation by April 2010.

Stops along the bus rapid transit routes would be spaced four or five blocks apart. Plans also call for the installation of dedicated kiosks to allow users to pay before boarding. In addition, these kiosks would display GPS-triggered, real-time data on arriving buses, according to the CTA’s Web site.

More than 1 million people ride CTA buses each day.

Another aspect of the congestion-reducing plan - but not part of this week’s public hearing discussion - includes hiking fees for on-street parking and loading zones during peak hours and higher taxes at private parking garages and lots in the Central Business District. Both congestion-reducing strategies were submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation in a bid to secure the $153 million grant.

Daley called the two-pronged plan a “model for other cities,” in April when Chicago won the grant.

“We believe this program represents a unique approach to reducing traffic congestion that combines bus rapid transit with a parking pricing strategy,” he says. Miami, Vancouver and Los Angeles all saw bus ridership increase after implementing bus rapid transit programs, he says.

More information on the CTA's bus rapid transit plans is available on the agency's website.

Amy Lee is a Chicago-based journalist. She covers transit issues for the Daily News.