On this blog and on Twitter, I have expressed a certain amount of exasperation with how the media has handled the Ashland BRT debate, and debates over public transit in general. In particular, I’ve criticized the Sun-Times, Tribune, and Atlantic Cities for obscuring the basic facts of the proposal and – most egregiously, in my mind – having written thousands of words about a major bus overhaul without talking to a single bus rider. As a result, their articles mischaracterized the debate as a battle between regular folks who drive and meddling government planners and transit nerds.
This morning, though, Redeye’s transportation reporter, Tracy Swartz, wrote an article that actually described both the benefits and costs of BRT – much faster buses, some increased car congestion, etc. – and talked to bus riders and explicitly described the debate as between drivers and people who take the bus. That’s not exactly the framing I think is best, since people can move between those categories, and a good number of people are, in fact, going to start taking the bus more often if BRT goes through, but it’s a hell of an improvement over everything else I’ve seen. The only point I wish she had included is the official estimate of how much time drivers will lose in congestion because of BRT, since I don’t think the answer is at all intuitive for most people. (For the record, it’s something like 10-15%.)
I don’t have much else to add, except: it can be done! Transportation writers, take note.