Fast buses moving forward

06/13/2012 4:01 PM

By Ben Meyerson

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Officials from the CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation are moving forward with plans to build a network of fast-moving express buses, and the West Loop and Near West Side are ground zero for the experiments.

At an event held last week by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, CTA President Forrest Claypool and CDOT chief Gabe Klein shared plans for the new network of buses known as bus rapid transit, or BRT.

One of the first routes to be put in place, the Central Loop BRT, will have a new station built on the south end of Union Station and would run through downtown to Navy Pier. But among the most interesting plans are the priority lanes the buses will get through the Loop, where they’ll have dedicated lanes on both Washington and Madison streets. A protected bike lane would also be built on Washington.

The Central Loop BRT project is scheduled to be done with planning by summer 2013, with construction finished by late fall 2014.

One of the biggest BRT projects is still on the table. This week, CDOT and CTA have been holding public meetings on a proposed BRT project that would span the city from north to south on either (or both) Ashland and Western.

The project could potentially link all of the CTA’s ‘L’ lines along the 21-mile corridor, and could be an opportunity to put in a new bus line that would act more like a train, with island platforms for bus stops and dedicated lanes throughout the route.

“We don’t want the bus to be viewed as ‘the other mode’ — that rail is the first option, and then there’s the bus,” Klein said. “This allows for better use of transit dollars. … We’re in tight fiscal times, and we know we can make really high return, low cost investments.”

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