Express bus to serve I-55 Stevenson corridor

April 16, 2009 That may soon be a rush hour reality along the Stevenson expressway.

Regional planners are hoping to get a new bus rapid transit service up and running on I-55 Stevenson corridor by this time next year. They want to take an incremental approach to a rapid transit solution they say is gaining traction around the world.

The Stevenson/I-55 that connects the southwestern suburbs to Chicago is the region's most congested traffic corridor.

Planners told a subcommittee of the RTA board that they have seen the future for back ups. Put buses on the left lane shoulders as they have in Minnesota and Jakarta, for example -- and let the good times roll.

"We want to make it look and operate like a train and provide some of the flexibility of bus and that becomes very appealing to a broader market segment," said Leanne Redden, Regional Transit Authority.

Redden and colleagues have returned from Los Angeles and Toronto where getting people out of their cars and into mass transit without spending a fortune on railroad infrastructure is a civic imperative. The buses would make the trek from Plainfield and Bolingbrook and drop off passengers, say at Ashland station on the CTA's Orange Line. From there, commuters would take the el into town. The details have to be worked out.

"Get something up and running as soon as possible, as simply as possible and really build the market and test the market," said Redden.

If it works, the RTA board heard on Thursday that dedicated bus lanes could be built on other roads including Milwaukee, Cermak, Dempster and maybe even the Eisenhower-Reagan combination.

Driver are going to have to get used to the somewhat unnerving possibility that a bus will be driving right by while you're going a lot slower in the regular lanes, a bus that will cut a half hour off your commute to the southwestern suburbs each way.

Such improvement to travel times is something the president said today is at the heart of his effort to get more high speed rail lines built across the country. And RTA studies show Chicago needs north-south public transit service in the western suburbs, and more east-west routes in the north and south suburbs.

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