February 21, 2013

Chicago unveils proposed BRT lane configurations

A rendering of the Western Ashland BRT. Photo courtesy Chicago Transit Authority.

A rendering of the Western Ashland BRT. Photo courtesy Chicago Transit Authority.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) unveiled the proposed lane configurations for the Loop streets to be used by the planned bus rapid transit (BRT) system that is scheduled to start service in 2014. Through careful planning and design, the lanes will provide a balanced separation of bus, bike and regular traffic lanes.

The agencies also unveiled renderings of the design for the new off-street transportation center just south of Union Station, which will provide key connections with other modes of transport to the BRT system.

BRT plans for the Central Loop East-West Transit Corridor include designated bus-priority lanes on two miles of streets: Madison, Washington, Canal and Clinton. The Loop BRT corridor will serve Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, CTA subways and Navy Pier with more than 1,700 buses per day, making it one of the busiest bus routes in the nation.

BRT improvements designed to make bus travel more reliable and appealing to customers include: colored pavement markings and enhanced signage clearly delineating the bus lanes; level-boarding; queue jumps for buses at key intersections; distinct bus shelters; bus tracker digital displays; sidewalk improvements and protected bike lanes.

“By using a balanced approach to configuring the roadways for BRT, we will make cost-effective improvements without dramatically changing the current traffic setup,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “At the same time, we will provide transit connections to downtown businesses and major destinations more reliable, fast and easy.”

Under the proposed lanes configuration, eastbound Washington will feature a colored bus-only lane that will be serviced with island bus-boarding platforms. Two auto lanes will remain for traffic through the Loop. A bike lane against the southern curb would be protected from auto traffic by the bus lane and boarding platforms.

On westbound Madison, the bus-only and auto lanes would be similar to the current configuration with curbside bus-boarding platforms. The westbound protected bike lane would be relocated to Randolph Street.

“Washington and Madison are two of CTA’s most traveled bus corridors with buses arriving every two to three minutes,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “The new configuration will speed up six routes on these busy streets and 15 total routes throughout the entire Central Loop BRT corridor, providing more efficient service for those making east-west connections in the Loop.”

CDOT will construct and manage the Central Loop BRT project, which is being financed by a $24.6 million Federal Transit Administration grant and $7.3 million in local Tax Increment Financing funds.

CDOT is in the process of acquiring a surface parking lot located south of Jackson between Canal and Clinton to build the transportation center. It will provide sheltered staging areas for CTA buses and a vertical connection to an existing Amtrak underground passageway, allowing commuters to access Union Station without crossing at street level.

BRT improvements could improve overall bus travel times through the Central Loop corridor by three to nine minutes per trip. While buses are only 4% of the vehicles traveling through the corridor, they carry more than 47% of the commuters making trips in vehicles.

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  • Clark Morris[ February 21th, 2013 @ 7:04pm ]

    The picture definitely is NOT representative of the Loop. Further, I would assume that both Washington and Madison will remain one way. If not, this is going to be a major change. Ignoring the probability that light rail would be a better solution, if the picture is accurate, bus capacity will be reduced by the introduction of off-side (driver's left hand side) doors by the use of island platforms a la the 39 seat 60 foot buses on the Health Line in Cleveland. If island platforms are needed a better choice would be to institute left hand running in the exclusive lanes. If the picture is an accurate representation of the thinking, the project is in desperate need of review and revision.

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