On Monday U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's Fast Lane blog featured the new high-speed rail route from Chicago to St. Louis. Below is an excerpt from Sec. LaHood's post:
"Last Friday morning in Joliet, Illinois, I did what a lot more Illinoisans and Missourians have been doing lately--I boarded an Amtrak train. Friday's ride, however, was special because somewhere between Joliet and Normal, after decades of passenger trains on this route topping out at 79 miles per hour, our train hit a speed of 111.
"That new high speed is an impressive 39 percent faster than the one passengers have been living with for years. So Friday was an exciting day for us, and as passengers in the coming weeks experience speeds of 110 MPH between Dwight and Pontiac, Illinois, it’s proof that 21st century rail is indeed coming to America."
Read the entire article here!
Last night Riders for Better Transit was on hand for the first public meeting about CTA plans for Bus Rapid Transit on Western and Ashland Avenues. An impressive number of community residents turned out to learn more about CTA proposals to bring better bus service to their neighborhood.
Many attendess arrived at Iglesia Rebano Church even earlier than the scheduled 5:30 p.m. door opening to hear about the project. Before being shown the four alternatives the CTA has in mind for Western and Ashland, transit riders were able to view exhibit posters from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and talk to non-profit organizations that support the project, which included Riders for Better Transit. We gave attendes some background on the ideas behind the project and why we support bringing Bus Rapid Transit to Chicago, and we helped them navigate the abundance of information the public meeting contained—nearly 40 panel boards of statistics, maps and plan explanations.
Residents came with varying degrees of prior information about the topic. Some had been to earlier public meetings and were interested in seeing how the CTA had narrowed the options since June. Some were completely unfamiliar with the BRT project but saw a sign for the meeting on the bus and worried they might be losing service. Most seemed happy with the idea of improving bus service, and several submitted comments to the CTA about the alternatives.
We were happy to see a few Active Trans members (and Riders for Better Transit supporters) attend, several of whom asked important questions about how bicyclists would be accommodated in these plans. Cyc and encouraging the CTA to work with the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020.
Two more public meetings are scheduled for this week. Riders for Better Transit will be at all of them, and we hope to see many more transit riders, residents, business owners, and cyclists join us!
As we push for better transit funding, we're excited about Chicago's plans for Bus Rapid Transit. Active Trans analyzed some of the benefits and put together a nifty infographic that shows what a big a difference BRT can make. We sent out a news release touting this infographic today, and you can check out the graphic below.
To mobilize transit riders, we are urging people to sign our BRT petition and attend public meetings next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (Oct. 16-18) to support BRT. We encourage you to attend and let the CTA know you support bus-only lanes in the center of the street and maintaining wide sidewalks and on-street parking. We believe this will provide the best options for Chicago's BRT.
This month, CTA and CDOT will hold their second round of public meetings about the project to bring Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to Western and Ashland Avenues. Be there to hear about the latest plans to bring world-class BRT to Chicago and to speak up for better transit!
At these meetings, you’ll have a chance to comment on a few different proposals for the design of BRT on both streets. CTA and CDOT presented a number of design options for each street (PDF) at the last round of public meetings in June.
Based on lessons from successful BRT systems in other cities and our experience with creating more livable streets, Active Trans offers the following feedback on design options that we’d encourage you to keep in mind as you attend and comment:
BRT on Western and Ashland presents an incredible opportunity to bring better transit to Chicago and to strengthen neighborhoods. Attend one of the city’s open house meetings to learn about the proposed alternatives and help us speak up for a BRT plan that includes world-class transit improvements with pedestrian-friendly streets!
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Iglesia Rebaño Church
2435 W. Division Street
Chicago, IL 60622
Nearby transit options include: CTA Bus Routes #49 Western and #70 Division
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Lindblom Math and Science Academy
6130 S. Wolcott Avenue
Chicago, IL 60636
Nearby transit options include: Green Line (Ashland/63rd Stop) and CTA Bus Routes #63 63rd and #9 Ashland
Thursday, October 18, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Lane Tech College Prep High School
2501 W. Addison Street
Chicago, IL 60618
Nearby transit options include: CTA Bus Routes #49 Western and #152 Addison
All facilities accessible to people with disabilities.
There’s been lots of talk about the seating layout of the new CTA 5000 series rail cars that we’re seeing on the Green Line and Pink Line trains. From what we’ve heard it seems like the new aisle-facing configuration is here to stay, but that has brought up a new source of debate about the seats themselves: bucket or bench?
Chicago Tribune reporter Jon Hilkevitch has made it clear he’s not a fan of the current bucket style seats and asks CTA to listen to riders on the issue. So Riders for Better Transit is asking you!
There are advantages and disadvantages to both seating styles, as we’ve heard from riders.
Those in favor of a bench seat say that parceling out space for people makes for an uncomfortable ride. Not all riders fit in the allotted 17.5” seat and when some spill over onto the next seat, it makes for a tight squeeze for their neighbor.
|Bench style MTA R142 (New York); photo courtesy of LTK Engineeering Services.||CTA 5000 rail car (Chicago); photo courtesy of CTA Tattler.|
Riders who prefer the bucket style seating featured in the new CTA cars argue that without the seat markings, there’s nothing to stop people from taking up even more space than they need, putting bags, jackets and other items next to them.
Both the bench and the bucket style seats allow for more standing room, allowing more people to fit on crowded trains.
Take our poll below or click here and tell us what you think! We’ll share the results with CTA. We’ll also enter your name in a raffle for a chance to win a free copy of the book, Carless in Chicago. Take the survey before Oct. 14.
Here’s how staffers in the Active Trans office answered:
This survey is now closed.
Last week, CTA announced that it will increase service on overcrowded train lines and bus routes that are bursting at the seams as transit ridership continues to grow. That’s the good news. The CTA will pay for it through smart reconfiguration of many routes, but also through eliminating some service altogether. While many transit riders will gain better service, some riders will lose access to transit or their ride will become far less convenient.
We’re glad the CTA is seeking the most efficient use of limited transit resources by updating routes to provide better service. But our region needs to add more trains and buses in addition to existing service levels, not instead of it.
We need to keep an eye on why the CTA is making some of these hard choices. CTA’s plans illustrate just how severe the funding problem is for public transit in the Chicago region, to the point where CTA can only pay for much-needed system expansion by eliminating service somewhere else. Tell CTA how these changes will affect you, whether good or bad, but also be sure to send a message to those who can truly make a difference: our elected officials. With their support, we could give transit the funding it needs and avoid having to make winners and losers out of our fellow transit riders.
Here's how you can help:
Earlier this week, the Chicago Tribune covered how Chicago will get a taste of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) this year as the City implements elements of BRT on Jeffery Boulevard. This is an exciting development for public transit in Chicago, introducing new transit strategies to provide faster, more reliable and more convenient service. It lays the groundwork for upcoming BRT projects, where transit riders and all Chicagoans can and should ask for more.
Chicago has an incredible opportunity to improve transit and economic activity with the upcoming BRT project in the Western and Ashland corridor. In order to provide better service, BRT relies on bus-only lanes, full-service transit stations and high-tech traffic signals. Some people may resist dedicating even a small portion of our roadways to transit, but doing so makes a more efficient transportation network that benefits everyone. Chicago needs to make transit a priority on the streets in this corridor.
Our neighborhoods need better transit options! We urge the CTA and the aldermen in this corridor to include bus-only lanes and other transit improvements on Western and Ashland to provide world-class BRT service. Our city and state elected leaders also need to invest in better transit by finding funding for expanded service that meets the needs of the transit-riding public.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a new mode of public transit that reinvents the bus. It offers a faster transit option that runs on existing streets, but with the convenience and reliability of a train. Cities around the world are using bus-only lanes, full-service transit stations, and high-tech traffic signals to create high-quality BRT systems–and it could be coming to your neighborhood!
There are many reasons BRT will improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods, from providing better access to jobs and services, to reducing traffic congestion and making our streets safer. Chicago is currently considering BRT projects for the Western/Ashland corridor and the Loop. But these transit improvements may be threatened by streets that prioritize car drivers over all other road users.
Tell Chicago aldermen to make transit a priority with these new BRT projects. Send the message that you want a truly world-class BRT system in Chicago that includes bus-only lanes and state-of-the-art transit facilities.
Have you had a chance to get up to speed yet on the exciting plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Western/Ashland corridor? If not, don’t miss the traveling BRT exhibit headed to a CTA bus or train stop near you!
BRT is a new mode of public transit that reinvents the bus, offering a better experience with the reliability, efficiency and speed of a train. The CTA, in partnership with the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration, is performing a planning study to explore options for a variety of Bus Rapid Transit features and service on both Western and Ashland Avenues.
The Active Transportation Alliance, Metropolitan Planning Council and Chicago Architecture Foundation are partnering to bring a mobile BRT exhibit to transit riders. The exhibit is a condensed version of the Bus Rapid Transit: Next Stop Chicago exhibit currently on display at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave., 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. It’s a fun way to learn about Chicago’s plans to improve transit and an opportunity to get involved in support of BRT. The three-day traveling exhibit will end with an evening happy hour exhibit and celebration.
Find information about BRT in Chicago at http://www.brtchicago.com. Transit riders can take action online in support of Bus Rapid Transit here.
Tue., Aug. 7
4-6 p.m. Western bus stop at Addison (west side of street)
4-6 p.m. Ashland bus stop at 79th (west side of street)
Wed., Aug. 8
4-6 p.m. Western Orange Line CTA (outside station)
4-6 p.m. Ashland bus stop at 18th (east side of street)
Thur., Aug. 9
4-6 p.m. Western Brown Line CTA (outside station)
4-6 p.m. Division Blue Line CTA (outside station)
6:30-8 p.m. Bus Rapid Transit Happy Hour Exhibit at Bad Dog Tavern (4535 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago)
Last week I attended the Metra Strategic Plan Open House in DuPage County on behalf of Riders for Better Transit. These meetings, which began July 10 and have been held all over the RTA region, continue this week and next. Find the one nearest to you here.
As I disembarked from the Union Pacific West line train in Glen Ellyn, I was happy to find Metra employees at the station, reminding riders of the meeting and showing them the way to the Glen Ellyn Village Hall. Inside, there were several display boards outlining the process Metra has undertaken to create its strategic plan as well as interactive opportunities for riders to vote on projects and they feel Metra should prioritize.
The walk-through set up was similar to presentations often seen at CTA open houses. Plenty of Metra officials were on hand to answer any questions about the Strategic Plan and how providing your comments can help shape it.
Metra Executive Director Alex Clifford was present at the meeting as well. After talking with Riders for Better Transit supporters who attended some of the other Strategic Plan Open Houses, it’s clear he is doing his best to be present at as many of these meetings as possible. I had an opportunity to talk to Director Clifford about Riders for Better Transit’s comments on the Strategic Plan.
A strategic plan for Metra has the potential to be a great tool in lobbying for better transit for city and suburban riders alike. The process that Metra is going through to include public opinion provides a great opportunity for transit riders to make sure that the strategic plan is centered on their needs. We have a few suggestions that place the transit rider front and center.
1. Avoid service cuts at all costs, and keep fare increases to an absolute minimum. Fare increases should not outpace inflation and should happen in small incrememnts, not like the 25% increase riders saw recently.
2. Work closely with partner transit agancies CTA and Pace. Riders would like to see better coordination of bus connections, fare collections, and transfer fees. More feeder bus connections to Metra stations, including bus-only lanes and Bus Rapid Transit, would make it easier and faster to travel by transit door-to-door.
3. Work with the local municipalities where Metra stations are located to provide better bike and pedestrian access, making stations “complete.” Consider these multimodal improvements instead of adding more parking to Metra stations because it encourages more transit-oriented development and eliminates the need to drive the last mile to your home or office.
Give your input
Metra continues to hold meetings throughout the region this week and next. Stop by, talk to Director Clifford, and give your input on the agency's plans. If you can't make it to a meeting, you can submit comments through this online survey.