Yesterday, the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago released a report which calls on the City and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to create a robust bus rapid transit network on 10 Chicago streets, each of which would have a dedicated lane for BRT. The MPC invited ITDP board president and former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia Enrique Peñalosa, as well as Annie Weinstock, ITDP’s US BRT Program Director to speak at the launch event, alongside MPC Project Manger Josh Ellis and the Commissioner of the Chicago DOT, Gabe Klein.
Chicago’s new Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged support for bus rapid transit as part of his campaign platform. The CTA, like many large transit agencies across the country, is facing the pressures of increased ridership and constrained budgets. In many ways BRT offers a chance for Chicago to deliver a new high-quality transit option at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time that it would take CTA to expand heavy rail. It is estimated that the first route could be developed in as little as two years.
ITDP’s recent report “Recapturing Global Leadership in Bus Rapid Transit” identified Chicago as one of the U.S. cities that has the potential to “go gold” with their BRT system, meaning that their system could be the first in the nation to be built to standards on par with world class BRT systems around the globe such as Transmilenio in Bogotá or the Guangzhou BRT in Guangzhou, China.
The MPC’s plans for Chicago’s BRT network have captured the attention, and garnered some early support from the Chicago area press. The Sun Times issued an editorial, highlighting “…the beauty of the MPC’s proposed rapid bus transit system is that one line could be built at a time. That way, individual communities will benefit — and Chicago can test, refine and render a verdict on dedicated lanes.” And what a beautiful thing a gold standard BRT system in the U.S. would be.