Citizens Taking Action has come out in opposition to plans to install bus rapid transit (BRT) as proposed on streets such as Ashland Avenue.
The organization has studied and compiled a list of bus routes either eliminated altogether, or with severely reduced hours of service, since CTA was established in 1947, and another on cuts within just the last 5 years. It maintains that showcase projects like bus rapid transit (BRT), at costs of upwards to $10 million per mile, requiring 16.1 miles of street construction, simply don't make sense when people are unable to get to work or get home, using conventional buses and trains, due to a recent series of service cut-backs the past few years. The majority of passengers, the group maintains, would be happy simply with greater bus reliability, and reduced bus bunching, as studies have shown.
Charles Paidock, secretary, said, "According to CTA, BRT articulated buses are supposed to operate approximately every five to 15 minutes. This could be done tomorrow if CTA brings back express buses. And it could be done without buying a new fleet of left-handed buses which can't be used elsewhere on the system, building 35 new BRT stations a half-mile apart, or changing roadway width at 13 trouble-some intersections along the Ashland Route. You can only get on or off a BRT at a station, which might mean you have to do some walking. Try doing that in the middle of winter. While headways might be shorter for BRT buses, regular Route No. 9 bus riders will experience increased delays due to traffic congestion caused by having only one lane for traffic, with no left turns allowed at 89 intersections. Parking will be reduced as well by at least 10 percent along the route, and there are no lots to park your car to get on the BRT. One double-parked delivery truck and everything comes to a stop. CTA tells you that BRT will run quickly, but doesn't tell you that buses on the regular route will slow down. So from the average passenger perspective, it's just a trade-off. Also, the BRT won't operate 24 hours a day, so there's no increase in service in terms of route hours of operation.
Kevin Peterson, another member of the transit group, stated that: "CTA eliminated express buses on Ashland and other routes, claiming that they were not necessary, and not allegedly attracting enough ridership. So now CTA wants to spend money on new buses and stations for a service that it said was not useful to the public, by their own admission. If they had really decent service, without bus bunching, and 60' articulated buses, none of this would be necessary, and we wouldn't be having this discussion."
In addition, the group feels that if you are going to spend this much on new infrastructure, that a light rail system, as is being presently put in about a dozen other cities across the country, would be preferable if a traffic lane is going to used for public transit only. It is generally felt that passengers prefer taking trains to buses. New light rail systems are emission free, electric powered, quiet to operate, and although slightly more expensive than a BRT, the vehicles last decades longer than buses, and can be boarded at street level without the need for steps or platforms.
Paidock added that: "CTA puts out an environmental assessment, but really doesn't look at simply improving existing service, or looking at alternatives to a BRT, such as light rail lines found in other transit systems across the country. How do you improve the environment by adding more buses, and slowing down other buses that operate on the same street? It makes no sense from a green perspective. Also, we couldn't find any plan for a lane dedicated for bicycles in the environmental assessment, places to lock your bike, or provision to put them on a BRT."