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Pawar Supports Bus Rapid Transit As Group Calls It A 'Cheap L Train'

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jul 15, 2013 6:30PM

Image credit: Chicago Department of Transportation

Opposition is mounting to the planned Ashland Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project but the plan has the backing of one alderman who says it would be a boon to the congestion problems of one of Chicago’s busiest streets.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) revealed himself to be a strong supporter of the Ashland BRT project and indicated he couldn’t wait for the Western Avenue BRT project to follow.

Pawar revealed his support for bus rapid transit after an architect wrote an open letter to him on his company’s blog. Matt Nardella of Moss Designs, which helped build one of the “people spot” mini parks in Andersonville, urged Pawar to back BRT, saying Moss Designs was a local business who saw the benefits of the plan.

The right-of-way (the zone between property lines) is in the public realm, therefore it belongs to all of us, whether we happen to get around by car or not. The future of Chicago’s right-of-way and every other urban area relies on how hospitable and sustainable we make our public space. For the past 100 years we have wrongfully prioritized cars over other methods of transportation (bikes, walking, buses etc) in our public space. This has created miles of impervious asphalt and turned over untold amounts of valuable acreage to a single use, to the detriment of a smoothly flowing, safe and sustainable transportation system citywide. It’s clear that a sustainable city must have overlapping and multi-functional zones which respond to the needs to all citizens. As evidenced by our failed agricultural policy, monocultures eventually fail or need tremendous amounts of synthetic inputs to survive. Our public space must be dedicated to more sustainable forms of transportation, like BRTs, along with a combination of habitat creation and stormwater filtration. Similar to our proposal outlined in the Lakeview Area Master Plan (LAMP), we imagine a multi-functional right-of-way where habitats for beneficial insects and wildlife are created, stormwater would be recharged locally (instead of being sent along a maze of pipes eventually terminating near St. Louis) and buffered by thriving green front yards for residents along thoroughfares.

Nardella’s open letter comes as another group rises in opposition to the plan. DNAInfo Chicago reports a group called Citizens Taking Action wants to torpedo the project, calling it a “cheap ‘L’ train.”

Charles Paidock, the group’s secretary, said "You get what you pay for. People generally prefer rail. Those buses have a much shorter life expectancy than a train, which ... lasts for decades. CTA is projecting speeds of up to 16 mph with the Ashland Avenue BRT project. Other expected advantages of the project include saving riders about 8 minutes per trip based on the current average trip length on the #9 Ashland bus of 2.5 miles, preserve approximately 90 percent of parking on both sides of the street and 95 percent of loading zones for delivery trucks, faster boarding and enhanced streetscape designs including medians, lighting and greenery along 75 blocks of Ashland. The average speed for the Ashland Avenue BRT is expected to be 16 mph, compared to the current Ashland Avenue bus route’s average speed of 8.3 mph.

Last month, another group opposed to the Ashland Avenue BRT called the Ashland-Western Bus Service Coalition proposed bringing back the X9 Ashland Avenue Bus as an alternative.