What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a rapid mode of transportation that can provide the quality of rail transit and the flexibility of buses. BRT has been implemented in other cities throughout the world as a low-cost, rail-like method of moving people quickly and efficiently. In cities such as Los Angeles and Toronto, BRT has been efficiently and affordably implemented with very positive results. It has also been successfully implemented as an incremental approach to providing transit solutions to address roadway congestion.
To better understand BRT feasibility in the Chicago region, the RTA Board created a BRT Subcommittee to lead the discussion. View the Subcommittee’s mission statement and selection criteria PDF Version (.pdf) MS Word Version (.doc)
RTA staff, along with its partnering agencies, is analyzing the potential implementation of demonstration BRT projects in different corridor environments. The results are promising.
Our goal is to determine overall operating advantages of a bus rapid transit system in the six-county region.
I-55 Bus-on-Shoulder Project Development
The RTA is conducting a Phase I Preliminary Engineering study in order to plan, develop and obtain approval for an I-55 Bus-on-Expressway Shoulder demonstration. This demonstration will use the highway inside (left) shoulder as a low speed priority treatment during peak periods for Pace’s I-55 commuter express routes when congested highway conditions exist. The purpose of the demonstration is to determine whether using the highway shoulder for transit can significantly improve transit service quality while also maintaining safety and the function of the shoulder. The corridor extends approximately 30 miles from downtown Chicago to IL 53 in Bolingbrook in the southwest portion of the Chicago metropolitan area. (View Map) The RTA is proposing a 2 year demonstration period beginning in mid-2011 of actual bus-on-shoulder operations on I-55 followed by an evaluation.
I-55 was selected for the demonstration because of the nearly continuous wide shoulder, severe and recurring congestion during peak periods in the traditional commute direction (to and from downtown Chicago in the a.m. and p.m. peak periods, respectively) and existing Pace express routes 755 and 855. Pace suburban bus offers express routes 755 and 855 between park-and-ride lots in several southwest suburbs and downtown Chicago via I-55. There are currently 8 buses inbound (northbound) to Chicago during the a.m. peak period and 8 buses outbound (southbound) to Bolingbrook and beyond in the p.m. peak.
Interstate 55 is a heavily travelled artery that bisects Metra’s BNSF and Southwest Service lines. Between these full service commuter rail lines, there is some bus transit on I-55 and commuter rail service on the Heritage Corridor, but both are limited to peak period-peak direction service for the traditional commute to downtown Chicago. Opportunities to improve the Heritage Corridor are limited at this time. However, the shoulders of I-55 may provide an opportunity to better utilize this Interstate facility to improve transit and overall mobility
Cermak-Butterfield BRT Market Research Study
The RTA is conducting a BRT market research study to discern community and customer priorities of BRT features along the Cermak/Butterfield corridor between Cicero and Lombard. Priorities are determined by assessing preferences along the entire corridor, which is more urban with higher densities and a connection to Chicago Transit Authority rapid transit rail at its eastern end and more suburban at the western end.
During this market research study, the RTA has held five stakeholder meetings spanning east to west along to the corridor to solicit feedback from employers, local municipalities, and regional planning and transportation professionals. Additionally, seven focus groups have been held, where RTA listened to members of the public – including existing transit customers and potential new customers that currently travel the corridor – to understand their preferences.
A report on the project was presented to the RTA Board in October 2010. View the final presentation PDF Version (.pdf) MS Word Version (.doc).
Learn more about Regional BRT Initiatives
In July 2010, Chicago agencies received grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration to launch two exciting BRT projects:
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) received funding for a BRT pilot project on the Jeffery Corridor. This bus rapid transit project runs along 103rd Street and Stony Island to Jefferson and Washington Streets, providing a high-quality transit link to the central business district in a corridor that lacks easy rail access. More than 200,000 people live and nearly 600,000 jobs are located within a half mile of this corridor.
The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) received funding for the Central Area Transitway. The east-west corridor BRT will consist of designated bus priority lanes on two miles of downtown surface streets to be used by seven CTA bus routes. The project includes bus signal priority, “next bus” information, and bus shelter branding. This project will connect Union Station through several districts in the downtown loop to Navy Pier and expedite bus services. Bicycle lanes, bus lanes and streetscape enhancements are also expected to be part of the project.
Read a local news release about these exciting projects.
Pace Suburban Bus also has plans for a coordinated network of arterial bus rapid transit in their service area. Find out more here!
Check back for updates and future BRT initiatives.