Why this is important
Dedicated space on roads for Pace and CTA buses is critical to improving speed and reliability. It will take a coalition to inspire the political will within the highway and road agencies to build more transit-friendly streets and bus rapid transit (BRT) in the Chicago region. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, both CTA and Pace bus modes retained more riders than rail modes in our region. Buses often carry people more reliant upon transit and play a critical role in connecting neighborhoods in areas lacking access to the rail network. Furthermore, transit-friendly streets not only move buses more quickly, but they can strengthen and safen all modes and contribute to the development of streets suitable for all users.
In recent years bus speed, reliability, and ridership have declined with growing congestion on local streets and competition with ride-hailing services. Transit-friendly streets can help free buses from congestion and give buses well-deserved priority over single-occupancy vehicles. With more resources, RTA, the Service Boards, and roadway agencies could build more widespread Transit Signal Priority and BRT corridors. In addition, more cultural and political support is needed to meaningfully expand BRT in the Chicago region.
Input from stakeholder working groups
Stakeholder working groups recommended advocating for the prioritization of transit over cars when allocating street space, advancing legislative measures to allow camera enforcement of dedicated bus lanes, and working with local communities to ensure transit is prioritized during long-term roadway construction projects. Working groups also focused on activating partners in local government, business, and advocacy communities to build support for BRT projects.
Advocacy work ahead
RTA will continue to advance Regional Transit Signal Priority (TSP) Implementation work and can make available grant funding to assist agencies to hire staff and consultants as needed to implement TSP. RTA will work to advance BRT implementation across the region by funding and supporting corridor planning projects and by advocating for IDOT, CDOT, county DOTs, and local government agencies to champion bus projects, improve their arterial roadway design, and to secure more dedicated space on regional roads in order to bring the region more in-line with peer regions in transit-way mileage. RTA will work to advance bus-lane camera enforcement legislation, recommended by working groups.
Pace will identify priority corridors for expansion of Pulse routes as part of their Network Revitalization and Systemwide Restructuring Initiative. CTA will work with CDOT and other partners to implement recommendations of Better Streets for Buses study. CMAP will work with regional transportation stakeholders to strengthen the implementation of Complete Streets through legislation, guidance, and technical assistance, with state and local partners; update the Congestion Management plan in 2023; advance Mobility Recovery recommendations on BRT, dedicated transit infrastructure, and other tools to improve bus speed and reliability; and seek categorical safety exemptions for transit/bus improvements on roadways to speed up project delivery.