Mayor Richard M. Daley and U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters today announced the city will receive $153.1 million in federal grant funds to be used for the purpose of reducing traffic congestion.
The city will use the money for an innovative program that combines building the first 10 miles of a proposed dedicated Bus Rapid Transit system of more than 100 miles with a parking pricing strategy aimed at encouraging motorists to come to the Central Business District outside the normal peak hours.
"As we all know, a modern public transportation system is essential to the future of our state, our region and our city. It is vital to our economic security and to our ability to recruit new businesses and create new jobs. It provides an alternative to cars and to the traffic congestion and air pollution they bring with them," Daley said at a news conference with Secretary Peters. Senator Durbin participated in the event by teleconference from Washington, D.C.
"We believe this program represents a unique approach to reducing traffic congestion that combines Bus Rapid Transit with a parking pricing strategy. We believe it will be a model for other cities, "he said.
The money for the project comes from federal funds available for congestion reduction demonstration programs. The city expects to complete the project by 2010. It must be approved by the City Council and the CTA Board.
With the grant, the city will implement these projects:
The on-street peak period pricing will be implemented through a long-term concession agreement with an experienced private sector parking manager, Daley said.
"As I have said several times in the past few weeks, the CTA needs to continue its commitment to focusing on improving the quality of service it provides to riders day by day," Daley said. The mayor said the two components are complementary.
"The parking pricing encourages drivers to come downtown outside the peak hours or take public transit. The Bus Rapid Transit service will give commuters a more modern and faster alternative to driving as well as better connections with rail lines. The result is less congestion and less pollution.
"We've always tried to lead by example. Our willingness to implement a new concept such as peak period pricing is what convinced Secretary Peters to make this grant," Daley said.
"It's a way to provide the speed and reliability closer to rail service without the costly infrastructure. Both Los Angeles and Vancouver have seen bus ridership increase after they introduced BRT," he said.
And, the Bus Rapid Transit service will use the new articulated hybrid buses the CTA is buying, reducing air pollution, he said.
"Secretary Peters and I have met many times in Washington during the past two years to discuss ways we can help expand and strengthen the CTA," Senator Durbin said.
"With Chicagoans spending nearly an hour and half commuting to and from work, we talked about the need for federal funding to lay the groundwork for modernizing and improving public transportation in Chicago. "Today's announcement will do just that, with newer buses, more connections to rail, quicker travel times and less congestion on Chicago's roads," Durbin said.
"We have the second largest transit system in the country. A million people a day ride the CTA buses, and too many of them are stuck in traffic," Mayor Daley said.
The first 10.2 miles of the Bus Rapid Transit will be established in key corridors to be determined.
In addition to fewer stops, features of BRT include dedicated lanes, next-bus arrival information and rear door and prepaid boarding.
Traffic Signal Prioritization will extend a green traffic light or shorten a red traffic light by several seconds when it senses a bus approaching an intersection. This will help improve BRT speed of service.
Ultimately, a BRT network of more than 100 miles will connect with key destination points such as employment centers, shopping destinations, rail stations, and significant CTA transfer points.
Clearly, there is much to do to improve the transportation quality of life for our residents, and this grant gives us the opportunity to put in place a very creative plan, Daley said.
"The problem of traffic congestion in metropolitan areas is severe and worsening, but we don't believe we have to live in gridlock forever. "The project we're announcing today will make our city more sustainable, strengthen our public transportation system and reduce traffic congestions.
"It's a major step forward in creating a transportation system that works for our people," Daley said.