By Tracy Swartz
6:46 AM CDT, April 19, 2013
Ashland Avenue will get a dedicated center bus lane in each direction for express bus service between 95th Street and Irving Park Road, the CTA and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will announce today.
This is the first step in bringing bus rapid transit, service that typically relies on traffic signal priority and dedicated lanes for buses, to Ashland Avenue. Construction could begin as early as 2015, the CTA said.
The city has been studying the possibility of bus rapid transit on Ashland and Western Avenues but decided to prioritize Ashland Avenue.
"Ashland Avenue has the highest CTA bus ridership with more than 30,000 riders per weekday," CTA President Forrest Claypool said in a release. "By introducing BRT, we will be providing one in ten Chicagoans with access to faster and more reliable transit, allowing a rail-like experience at a lower cost."
The first phase of the project will run between the Ashland Orange Line station at 31st Street and the Metra Clybourn stop at Cortland Avenue, which is estimated to cost $116 million.
The CTA said preliminary estimates show that BRT can be implemented for approximately $10 million per mile. The entire project would run 16 miles.
Buses would stop every half mile and have traffic priority at intersections.
The CTA estimates riders would save 8 minutes on each Ashland Avenue bus trip of 2.5 miles. The city also promised that 90 percent of Ashland Avenue parking would be preserved, and new streetscaping would include medians and better lighting.
Some drawbacks include removing left-hand turn lanes and one vehicle travel lane would be eliminated in each direction. Also, the CTA would continue to run local No. 9 Ashland bus service, which could slow traffic as well.
The CTA introduced a rudimentary form of bus rapid transit last year on Jeffery Boulevard.
The agency originally studied running the service along Ashland Avenue between Howard and 95th Streets but decided to mirror the current No. 9 Ashland bus route.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC