In the continuing interest of demonstrating that reporting on public transit is not as hard as results from CBS and others might suggest, I wanted to recognize John Hilkevitch’s piece in the Tribune today, which not only covered extremely good news – on which more in a sec – but did so by simply presenting the facts of the project. Bus lanes here, restricted right turns for cars there, for this many dollars, serving this many riders. Great. And not hard! Maybe we could have some more quotes – there are no bus riders in this article either, but the only quotes are from CDOT, so it’s not that kind of piece.
Anyway: more of this, please.
As for the content of the news, it’s excellent: the most details yet about the Loop Bus Rapid Transit project, which will use bus lanes, signal priority (special green lights for buses) and enhanced stations to make the trip from Ogilvie/Union Station to Michigan Avenue, and vice versa, significantly faster. That’s a big deal mainly because it makes commuter rail stations on both ends of the Loop (and all the lines that end there) much more valuable: people whose lines end in the West Loop can now get to the eastern side much more easily, and, just as importantly, the South Side Metra Electric and South Shore lines that end at Millennium Station can make it to the western edge of the Loop – where jobs have been increasingly concentrated – without spending twenty minutes stuck in traffic to go the last mile.
It’s also just impressive policy. In a country where multi-hundred-million-dollar streetcars serving a few thousand speculative tourists are a remarkably popular genre of transit, Chicago is going to spend just $30 million – less than the cost of a single El station, or roughly 158 feet of subway* – to radically improve transportation for 25,000 riders a day.
Central Loop BRT might also serve as a kind of proof-of-concept for BRT on Ashland and other streets. Buses have such a terrible reputation in Chicago, as in other American cities, that it’s hard for a lot of people to imagine them being anything other than frustratingly slow. A bus that gets to speed by traffic, that has its own rail-like stations, might change a lot of minds – or, more to the point, get them asking, “Why doesn’t my neighborhood bus do that?” It’s particularly exciting that the CTA is going to build one station with fare gates, meaning the standard CTA practice of waiting two or three light cycles for everyone to board and tap their cards at a busy stop will be completely eliminated.
More of that, too. Thanks.