Bus Rapid Transit System Proposed For Ashland

Some residents, business oppose plan for 16-mile corridor

By Regina Waldroup
|  Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013  |  Updated 8:13 AM CDT
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A new traffic proposal for Ashland Avenue has galvanized many residents, small business owners and some drivers. Regina Waldroup reports.

A new traffic proposal for Ashland Avenue has galvanized many residents, small business owners and some drivers. Regina Waldroup reports.

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A new traffic proposal for Ashland Avenue has galvanized many residents, small business owners and some drivers.

In the first phase of the project, the Chicago Transit Authority wants to add a center lane along the 16-mile corridor from Cortland to 31st Street that will service a Bus Rapid Transit system. The system would eventually be expanded to Irving Park Road on the North Side, and 95th Street to the south.

CTA officials say the bus route has the highest ridership in the city, but it's one of the slowest.

"The average commute from Beverly to the Illinois Medical District is about 71 minutes right now, and that commute would be cut down to about 45 minutes," said Joe Iacobucci, the CTA's manager of strategic planning and policy.

Earnie Orlando's family has owned Orlando Glass and Trim on Ashland for nearly 100 years. He believes the project will be a nightmare for his Noble Square business.

"I think they really need to rethink this, put together a better proposal and listen to what businesses in the community and the people are saying," Orlando said.

The project calls for boarding areas in the center of the street, one shared lane in each direction for traffic and will greatly reduce the amount of left turns available on Ashland.

"To give up an entire lane 100 percent of the time is going to be a hardship on the neighborhood, on the community," Ukranian Village resident Julie Dickinson said.

Other Ukranian Village residents worry about more cars taking residential side streets.

"How many cars are going to be in my neighborhood? How much more traffic? You're not really looking at typical automobile traffic, you'll be looking at frustrated drivers," resident Suzi Wahl said.

But supporters of the bus rapid transit system say it makes sense for the congested corridor.

"If we do nothing, that's not going to change, it's just going to get worse. Bus Rapid Transit can really change that," says Ethan Spotts of Active Transportation Alliance.

CTA officials are hosting a meeting Tuesday night to get comments and feedback from the community.

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