Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) opened the city’s first BRT line and the first of four planned routes, the Jeffery Jump, in November of last year.
Following the Jump are the Central Loop, or East-West Corridor, expected to launch in 2014, and the Ashland and Western Corridors project, which are each currently in the development phase.
Meanwhile, CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) are conducting a study to see where BRT improvements would be most valuable on the 20-mile Chicago Lakefront Corridor.
The projects are equal partnerships between CTA and CDOT, with CDOT managing the street, and CTA running the service.
The project received strong agency and political support. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel put BRT in his transition plan, which mapped out different goals for his first 100 days in office. In addition, there was approval from all the city’s districts.
The route features 25 hybrid-electric, articulated low-floor vehicles. One station, the highest boarding location for the route, serves as a retail hub and transit center with a commuter rail station, and features a shelter with real-time information, benches and landscaping.
Joe Iacobucci, manager, strategic planning and policy, CTA, and Lambrini Lukidis, media representative, CTA, spoke with us to share more details about the project.
Why BRT?: “CTA had record ridership numbers two years in a row. People are flocking toward public transportation for a number of reasons,” Lukidis says. “This is one of the best ways we can accommodate [them]. It’s a benefit for our customers and a way to integrate everyone who shares the roadway.”
“CTA currently has 1.7 million bus boardings a day,” Iacobucci adds. “We also know that customers are voting with their feet and flocking to faster, more reliable service. Congestion has gotten worse in Chicago over the last 30 years. BRT is the way to redesign the streets to make sure we can fulfill those desires for our customers better.”
What it has taken to get it to this point: The planning phase ranged from 2010 to 2012. The total project cost was $11 million, Iacobucci says.
The agency received funding from a Bus and Bus Facility Livability Initiative grant in 2009, allowing it to implement the route.
Public feedback: “We’ve gotten so many anecdotal responses from people who used the service and enjoy it,” Lukidis says. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on the look and feel of the service and people really like the brand the ‘Jeffery Jump’: You’re jumping ahead of traffic, getting a jump-start on your day, getting downtown. That was part of what got people to understand the service and the brand has resonated with them.”
Adds Iacobucci:“We received official comments from customers who don’t even ride the corridor but have seen the route and know about the project, asking when their ‘jump bus’ is going to come on their corridor, which is really satisfying.”
The project also received significant civic support. Local partners include Active Transportation Alliance, an alternative transportation advocacy group, the Metropolitan Planning Council, a non-profit organization that advocates for transportation, housing and economic development initiatives, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation which focuses on the design impact of BRT on the streets. In addition, CTA engaged the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development as a project partner.
Challenge to overcome: BRT, Iacobucci points out, is new to Chicago. “Now that we have our first line up and running, every additional line will be a little easier. But going out and explaining BRT was a hurdle to get over, since we didn’t have it in the region,” he says. “We did our best to point [to] examples in Cleveland and New York, and internationally.”