CHICAGO — A local transit advocacy group opposes a planned Ashland express bus, calling the project "nothing but a cheap 'L' train."
Citizens Taking Action opposes the Bus Rapid Transit service that would replace center traffic lanes along Ashland Avenue with express bus lanes from Cortland Avenue to 31st Street.
The CTA has touted the system's similarity to a train, noting that passengers pay before entering stations and buses get signal preference at intersections, according to the project's website.
"This a great idea for the City of Chicago to make the bus easier, faster and more reliable, like the train," said Brenna Conway, a member of the steering committee for the project at a recent community feedback meeting.
But Citizens Taking Action members disagree.
"The BRT is nothing but a cheap 'L' train," said Charles Paidock, secretary for Citizens Taking Action. "You get what you pay for. People generally prefer rail. Those buses have a much shorter life expectancy than a train, which ... lasts for decades.
"If you are going to spend this much on new infrastructure, then a light rail system, as is being presently put in about 25 other cities across the country, would be preferable to buying a new fleet of BRT buses, with doors on the left, which cannot be used elsewhere," the group said in a news release.
A Bus Rapid Transit system is one-third of the cost to install as a light rail, said Lambrini Lukidis, CTA spokeswoman, and also more flexible.
"BRT is also the least disruptive to residents and business owners in terms of construction and operation," Lukidis said.
The Ashland BRT is estimated to cost a total of $160 million for the 16-mile system from Irving Park Road to 95th Street, at $10 million per mile.
Light rail systems cost an average of $35 million per mile, according to the project's website.