Check out the recent transit-related posts on the Active Trans blog, Write of Way. 


Ready for a new Challenge?

Ready for a new Challenge?

Every year, the Bike Commuter Challenge throws down the gauntlet, asking people to track their trips for one week as they bike to work. In extending direct involvement to all team members in 2012, participation went off the charts. Nearly 7,000 riders took more than 16,000 trips totaling more than 161,000 miles! This great success made one point abundantly clear: Chicagoland needs more challenges like this throughout the year!

That’s why we’re introducing, a year-round competition that allows you to sign up, track your trips and get points you can use toward great monthly prize contests. As long as you’re reducing your drive-alone trips—whether that’s with transit, bicycling, walking, carpooling, or telecommuting—you’re eligible to participate and win. Sign up and keep track of fuel saved, carbon emissions reduced and calories burned.

For the November competition, you could win:

  • A transit package that includes your choice of CTA, Metra or Pace passes, plus $25 to spend at either Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.
  • A folding bike.
  • A Chicago “stay-cation” package for two: A night at the Chicago Fairmont Hotel, passes to the Field Museum and round-trip transit.

Get recognized as one of the greenest and healthiest commuters in northeastern Illinois. The first employer challenge, called TransitWorks, is now accepting teams. Sign up today: The competition begins December 1!

And the Bike Commuter Challenge will be back next summer better than ever at!

What if public transportation disappeared?

What if public transportation disappeared?

Can you imagine what the Chicagoland area would look like if Metra, Pace and CTA all suddenly disappeared? Residents of cities across the eastern seaboard have been faced with a similar question about their public transportation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's landfall on Monday.

Perhaps nowhere has the impact of public transportation service disruption been as significant as New York City and its metro region. According to the 2011 American Community Survey Estimates, over 50 percent of NYC workers use public transportation to get to work.

On Wednesday, limited service was restored on NYC buses, with further openings on Thursday, along with other restrictions put in place meant to curtail gridlock. One cannot ignore picture after picture and story after story that recount the massive problems facing those who tried to get to work on Wednesday. From all accounts, the city remained at a virtual standstill without adequate public transportation available.

While we don't use quite as much public transportation here in Chicagoland (26.8 percent in Chicago; 17.7 percent in Cook County), we could expect the impact of such a "public transportation armageddon" to bring about similar—if not worse—gridlock.

As noted in a recent blog post, every year seems to bring about threats (if not implementation) of more transit service cuts and fare increases. For public transportation to fulfill its promise, we must all recognize that public transportation use benefits everyone by getting cars off the streets and helping everyone get where they need to go in a safe and timely manner.

We need to continue to advocate for public transportation use (and biking and walking) as a benefit to everyone. It is crucial that we not increase impediments to users--including decreased service and higher fares--and instead we must work for more to be done to expand public transportation options and encourage public transportation use in the region.

Take action and tell your elected leaders it’s time to stop the cuts and invest in moving transit forward.

Bike detour during Wells Street bridge reconstruction

Bike detour during Wells Street bridge reconstruction

On Monday, Nov. 5, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will close the Wells Street bridge over the Chicago River for a year for a major reconstruction project. How will this impact you?

Kinzie Street and Wells are two of the busiest bike commuting routes in the city, and many people biking into the Loop on these streets use the Wells Street bridge. Since navigating downtown streets by bike can already be intimidating for many people, a good detour is vitally important.

The detour for biking will be east on Kinzie Street, turning south onto Clark Street to cross the Chicago River. CDOT has installed bridge plates on the Clark Street bridge to make the crossing safer for biking. Cars and buses will be routed off of Wells further north, which should make the left turn onto Kinzie easier for people biking. CDOT has mapped out their detours for driving, biking and transit (view PDF map here).

We're also still awaiting construction on the protected bike lane on Dearborn Street later this year, which will provide a great alternative to Wells once it's completed.

People walking will also not be able to cross the river at Wells, and will be routed to the LaSalle Street and Clark Street bridges.

CTA trains will continue to run on the bridge, except for two nine-day service interruptions in the spring. CTA will provide alternative bus and rail service during those times.

Enough is enough: Stop the transit cuts!

Enough is enough: Stop the transit cuts!

We are holding our breath waiting for the CTA to announce its 2013 budget. Are more service cuts or fare increases coming our way? 

 The CTA recently decided to cut a number of routes because it was the only way it could afford to add service on overcrowded buses and trains. In 2010, CTA cut bus service 18 percent and train service 9 percent. CTA train fares have increased 80 percent since 1990 – but in that same time the state gas tax hasn’t increased one penny.

Metra has already announced a 2013 budget that leaves more fare increases on the table for next year. Metra just raised fares 25-30 percent earlier this year.

Every year it seems transit riders in Chicagoland get less transit service for our money. Service cuts and fare increases have become a regular tradition, making it more difficult and more expensive to get around. Transit in our region needs to stop moving backwards. Tell your elected leaders it’s time to stop the cuts and invest in moving transit forward!

TAKE ACTION: Tell your elected leaders to stop the transit cuts!


Open house! Metra shares its strategic plan and talks about next year's budget

Open house! Metra shares its strategic plan and talks about next year's budget

Over the summer, Metra invited riders to review its strategic plan at a series of open houses. Riders for Better Transit attended and provided feedback about the plan on behalf of our suburban members. Thank you to those of you who attended a meeting in your area and shared your own input on the plans as well.

Metra has taken the input it received from these open houses and made further adjustments to its goals and objectives, capital funding priorities and even its mission statement. They are now ready to update riders with these changes at a new round of public meetings! Find dates/times and the location nearest to you.

In most cases, these strategic planning open houses will also serve as public hearings for Metra’s 2013 budget, which was recently released. Thankfully, this year’s budget does not call for any service cuts or fare increases at this time. But it does paint a rather unhappy picture of Metra’s finances in the coming years. Particularly vulnerable, according to the budget, is Metra’s Capital Investment Program--the money needed for making long term investment in the structural aspects of the system. Metra’s budget makes it clear that if it cannot get the funding it needs from the state of Illinois, federal transportation funds and other expected sources, they may yet be forced to consider raising fares.

Active Trans plans to make comments about both the strategic plan and the budget at these upcoming meetings--and continuing our push for better transit, without fare increases or service cuts. We’ll encourage Metra to make decisions that put the riders first. Join us!

High-speed rail on the fast track in Illinois

High-speed rail on the fast track in Illinois

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!

Riders for Better Transit attends BRT public meeting

Riders for Better Transit attends BRT public meeting

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!

Riders for Better Transit launches infographic touting Bus Rapid Transit benefits

Riders for Better Transit launches infographic touting Bus Rapid Transit benefits

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 TuesdayWednesday, 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. 

Learn more about the public meetings here.


Speak up at Bus Rapid Transit public meetings Oct. 16-18 to bring better transit to Chicago!

Speak up at Bus Rapid Transit public meetings Oct. 16-18 to bring better transit to Chicago!

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 AvenuesBe 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:

  • Bus-only lanes in the center of the street will provide better transit than curbside bus-only lanes. Placing bus-only lanes in the center of the street helps to reduce conflicts with existing local bus routes, cars parking and turning, and other vehicles that may end up obstructing a lane near the curb. It significantly reduces the chances that the bus lane will be blocked and therefore makes your transit trip both faster and more reliable.
  • Reducing sidewalk width or adding travel lanes would reduce walkability and livability. Transit and pedestrian-friendly streets go hand-in-hand to create successful, livable places where people can walk between transit stations and neighborhood destinations. BRT is an opportunity to improve the character of our streets and create more walkable transit hubs in the corridor. It’s essential to maintain quality public space on our sidewalks that growing business districts can use for sidewalk seating and to enhance their neighborhoods. Replacing parking with a bus lane would also create six lanes of fast-moving traffic where there’s now only four. This will feel significantly less comfortable for people walking, especially if cars or buses are speeding by right against the sidewalk. Parking not only provides access to local businesses, but also provides a barrier between pedestrians and traffic that can make a street feel safer. Rather than narrowing sidewalks or removing parking, we should reprioritize how we use the existing traffic lanes by converting a car lane to a bus-only lane.

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.

How do you like the new train seats?

How do you like the new train seats?

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:

  • 50 percent voted for bench seating
  • 44 percent voted for bucket seating
  • 6 percent no preference 

This survey is now closed.

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