In 2010, while writing Recapturing Global Leadership in Bus Rapid Transit: A Survey of Select U.S. Cities, ITDP identified Chicago as the U.S. city with the highest potential of reaching gold-standard BRT. In 2011, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, ITDP US brought together ITDP Board President Enrique Peñalosa and newly-elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. During the visit, Mayor Emanuel made a commitment to build gold-standard BRT in Chicago and two BRT projects in Chicago took off: one right through Downtown in the Central Loop and the other on Ashland Avenue. Since then, ITDP has been providing technical support to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) on their BRT plans in the Central Loop and Ashland Avenue. If the projects continue on their current trajectories, the Ashland project could open in 2016 as the US’s first gold standard BRT with the Central Loop project coming even sooner as a silver link.
ITDP has also been working with Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) to develop financing tools to encourage transit-oriented development projects in the City of Chicago. When people can rely on public transit to connect where they live and where jobs are available, it reduces their cost of living. To that end, ITDP and MPC are working to prioritize new construction and renovation that are accessible to people across the income spectrum. Specifically, ITDP would like to see these tools applied to the Ashland BRT corridor so that one day soon, Chicago will build a gold-standard TOD next to the US’s first gold-standard BRT.