Friday, April 26, 2013

A better idea for Melnea Cass Boulevard

Chicago is proposing a conversion of a portion of one of its busiest bus routes to BRT. The street is 70' wide curb-to-curb and currently has 4 travel lanes, 2 parking lanes, and a median/turning lane in the center. The bus lanes will be created by taking 2 travel lanes and the center median; left turns will be prohibited. There will be off-board ticketing and signal priority to keep buses moving along.

Ashland Avenue proposal (source)
Compare that to the proposed Melnea Cass Boulevard bus lanes:

Melnea Cass Boulevard proposal (source: 3-6-13 presentation)
It's not entirely comparable -- CTA plans to use buses with doors on both sides -- but the Chicago proposal looks much more neighborhood friendly, and the street much safer to be around.

Melnea Cass Boulevard is much wider than Ashland Avenue, but the sidewalks are much smaller in the Boston proposal. The buses here will have to contend with left-turning traffic, unlike Ashland Avenue. And finally, the Melnea Cass proposal is for a very short segment of the handful of bus routes that use it, whereas the Chicago proposal starts with a ~6 mile segment and will eventually extend to a full 16 mile route. Here, if the Urban Ring were ever to be built using BRT, then the initial tiny segment would become something more significant. But widening would hurt the community along the Melnea Cass corridor permanently, even if it were to get transit service befitting an urban location. This Chicago proposal is a better model for a busy urban corridor in a well-developed American city.

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