Bus route to brighten up Broadway with artwork - April 13, 2017

Courtesy of chicagotribune.com

Written by Gregory Tejeda

Artists, particularly painters, from Gary, Merrillville and Crown Point will wind up having their work publicly displayed beginning this fall when the Broadway Rapid Transit bus line is expected to begin operations.

The rapid transit service is expected to make 17 stops along Broadway at major intersections along the thoroughfare that connects the three Lake County municipalities Gary, Merrillville and Crown Point.

The intent is to have a bus line that will be able to make the trip from 4th Avenue in downtown Gary to the Methodist Hospital Southlake campus in Merrillville in 20 minutes. There also will be shuttle buses that will connect with the route at various points to allow for trips to the shopping malls in Merrillville and to the Lake County court and government buildings located in Crown Point.

But aside from the faster transit times, Gary Public Transportation Corp. officials said they also want to help beautify the communities – particularly Gary, officials said.

There will be new bus shelter structures set up at various stops along the route, and works of art will be integrated into the shelters so as to make them artistic in-and-of themselves. Although they also will integrate practical features such as solar lighting panels and access for people with physical disabilities.

Planning and marketing director David Wright said the bus company worked with the Legacy Foundation to find local artists from each community, and the bus shelters in each community will boast a local artist’s work.

Public Transportation officials on Wednesday offered a display at the ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen, 411 E. 5th Ave., Gary, of some of the paintings that will be used at bus stations.

They also offered up other paintings done by the same artists, including one depicting former presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan arm-wrestling while sitting in front of an “Rbucks cafe,” while Abraham Lincoln watched.

Wright said that particular painting was not going to be included at a bus shelter. “We’re not going to make our bus shelters that political,” he said.

Among the artists who designed works that will be put under clear plastic to protect them from the weather include Nancy Niequist Schoon, Jesse Johnson, Corey Hoge Cherry, Raschelle Roos, Desiree Simpson, Malachi Moore, Eurnice Harris and Trenton Hunt, officials said.

Schoon, a 17-year resident of Gary, has an additional distinction. She designed the logo – a Capital B tilted slightly to the left and contained within a circle – that will be used to designate the Broadway Rapid Transit route.

“I wanted something with some visual charm,” Schoon said of her design, which she said took her about 20 hours to think up before she finalized its design.

Gary Common Councilwoman Linda Barnes-Caldwell said she likes the idea of adding some visual beauty to the Gary cityscape, while also making improvements to the options available to Gary residents who rely upon public transportation to get to places.

“Something like this is long overdue,” she said.

Officials said the new Broadway Rapid Transit service can’t actually begin until Indiana Department of Transportation officials complete work on bypass lanes that will enable the buses to travel more quickly along Broadway.

Wright said there also would need to be an education process to let local motorists know the bypass lanes are intended solely for the buses and that they will face tickets and fines if they are caught by police using the lanes.

Both of those issues are expected to be resolved by September or October, with Wright saying an exact date for Broadway Rapid Transit to begin has yet to be set.

Gregory Tejeda is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.