Ashland bus-only lane proposed from Irving Park to 95th Street

September 17, 2013 7:35:37 PM PDT
Opponents are expected to turn out for a community meeting Tuesday night to discuss the CTA plan for rapid transit buses on Ashland Avenue. The CTA is propsing a new bus lane be built down the center of Ashland from Irving Park Road on the north to 95th Street on the south.

Residents voiced concerns about the plan that would reshape one of the busiest north-south streets in Chicago. The plan would take away one lane of traffic on each side and those lanes would then become bus-only lanes.

"I think it's a great idea to improve public transportation where U think it's at fault is they're not addressing the problems it'll create on Ashland and one lane of traffic will never work," said Mary Beth Pyne, West Town resident.

The CTA says Ashland is in need of a makeover because one in four households along the route don't own a car. But some who live and work say the plan will kill business.

A CTA-produced animation shows what Ashland Avenue could look like in a few years, with bus-only lanes in the center of the road.

"Ashland Avenue is our highest ridership bus route in the CTA system, with 31,000 boardings a day. But it's also one of the slowest bus routes in the entire system," said Joe Iacobucci, strategic planning manager, CTA.

Drivers would lose a lane of traffic and left-hand turns would be eliminated, allowing buses to travel faster and more efficiently, while stopping for riders every half mile.

"Customers that are currently taking long trips right now that take over an hour will be able to reduce that travel time drastically, in addition to having that reliability," said Iacobucci.

But some who work along this busy north-south thoroughfare, which is heavily traveled by trucks and delivery vehicles, want the CTA to hit the brakes on the plan.

"They'll destroy business. They'll destroy the communities, the residents, the housing and stuff, all up and down Ashland Avenue," said Ernie Orlando, Orlando Auto Glass & Trim.

Ernie Orlando says his auto repair business relies heavily on customers who drive to his location.

His neighbor, gas station owner Leo Manaois, fears it will slow vital deliveries of fuel and supplies.

"I can't imagine what it's going to do, probably shut it down entirely," said Manaois.

But the CTA says bus rapid transit has actually increased business in other cities, including in Cleveland, where it's helped connect people to vital hospitals.

Transportation experts say drivers on Ashland would likely find plenty of other north-south alternatives.

"We have a grid system, and it's flexible. People can move within that grid to avoid the loss of capacity that would take place on Ashland," said Prof. Stephen Schlickman, UIC Urban Transportation Center.

But some who live near Ashland Avenue fear what that diversion of traffic might mean.

"As a mother, as a homeowner, as a landlord, I'm concerned with these frustrated drivers going through our neighborhoods," said Suzi Wahl, Ukranian Village resident.

The CTA hopes to secure federal funding for the project, which is still in the planning stages. A public meeting will be held Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Talcott Elementary on Ohio and Wolcott. The CTA says it wants to hear feedback from the community.


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