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

 

Thanks to those who helped with Riders for Better Transit Day of Action today!

Thanks to those who helped with Riders for Better Transit Day of Action today!

Thank you to all of the supporters who came out to help with the Riders for Better Transit Day of Action today.

We had nearly 30 volunteers passing out flyers featuring our current action alert, which demands better transit through investment by state government. With their help, we passed out over 6,000 flyers.

This is just the beginning. We have much more to do. These next few weeks are critical for the Transit Fast Forward bill as we build support in the state legislature.

As we continue to reach even more people, we could use your help as a volunteer:

Volunteer for Riders for Better Transit!
Be a Volunteer for a Transit Day of Action. For seven mornings in coming weeks, we'll be canvassing downtown Chicago train stops.

We'll be meeting at the Argo Tea on the corner of Dearborn Street and Madison Street in downtown Chicago, and then spread out to a few downtown train stops to pass out action alert flyers.

Mondays and Wednesdays, starting Wednesday, March 7 and continuing until Wednesday, March 28
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.
Argo Tea is at 45 W. Madison Street, at the corner of Dearborn and Madison streets.

If you could lend us a few of your mornings, that would be fantastic. To volunteer, please RSVP to campaign outreach intern Rosette Reynolds, reynoldsr11@gmail.com

ACTION ALERT: Urge your state legislators to support Transit Fast Forward!

ACTION ALERT: Urge your state legislators to support Transit Fast Forward!

Riders for Better Transit is holding a press conference and Day of Action today to introduce Transit Fast Forward -- state legislation that would improve and expand train and bus service in Chicagoland through better investment. This is an exciting step forward for our movement!

TAKE ACTION NOW: Tell your state legislators to support Transit Fast Forward today!

If Chicagoland wants to compete as a world-class region, then we need to invest in a 21st Century transit system to keep our economy moving and improve our quality of life. Our public transportation system should be moving forward, not backward!

Transit Fast Forward (SB 3236) would provide a new, dedicated source of funding for transit that will grow over time. It would generate an estimated $11.6 million in 2013, and a projected $168 million over the first five years. It indexes the state gas tax with inflation, a move that will dedicate an additional fraction of a penny per gallon to public transportation. The end result will be better commutes for drivers and transit riders alike.

New transit revenue could help build new stations, expand routes and service times, bring back express buses and eliminate slow zones. It could help prevent future service cuts and fare increases.

Today is also our first Transit Day of Action, with volunteers from Riders for Better Transit blanketing train stations across the Loop during the morning rush hour to spread the word about Transit Fast Forward. Please join our Day of Action by contacting your state legislators!

TAKE ACTION NOW: Tell your state legislators to support Transit Fast Forward today!

Lake County seeks input from residents about public transportation

Lake County seeks input from residents about public transportation

Are you a Lake County resident who wants to see more public transportation options in the county? Here's your chance to share your views and experiences.

Lake County is conducting a comprehensive study to better understand the daily travel of people in the county to consider enhancements to the public transportation system.The Lake County Division of Transportation (LCDOT) wants to know where residents are going and when they are traveling.

LCDOT also wants to know how often Lake County residents use public transportation and whether or not public transportation options are available. This survey will provide data to help them evaluate public transportation options and consider reconfiguring the existing Pace Suburban Bus routes, creating new routes, or adding new public transportation services.

The survey is open until Friday, March 16.

 

Volunteer for Riders for Better Transit Day of Action on Feb. 29!

Volunteer for Riders for Better Transit Day of Action on Feb. 29!

Riders for Better Transit is having its first Day of Action!

Chicagoland needs faster, more reliable, more frequent and expanded transit service. Our transit system should be moving forward, not backward. We are hitting the streets to spread this message and we need your help.

Volunteer for our first Transit Day of Action to demand better transit!

We’ll start the day with coffee and a call to action regarding transit funding. Then we’ll spread out to a few key downtown train stations to pass out action alert flyers.

Wednesday, February 29th
7:30 a.m. - 9 a.m.
Meet at Pritzker Park: at the corner of State and Van Buren, next to the Harold Washington Library L stop.

To volunteer, please RSVP with Brenna Conway, Brenna@activetrans.org. 

Latest on the Red/Purple Modernization Project

Latest on the Red/Purple Modernization Project

This week, CTA held open houses to update the public on the progress of the Red and Purple Modernization Project. Riders for Better Transit staff attended one of the meetings, and talked to CTA staff about some of the details. 

What changes can riders expect?

Well, nothing too dramatic right away, but it’s clear that changes are on their way for these critical routes that provided nearly 20 million trips in 2011.

CTA received over 1,500 comments during the last round of public meetings in January 2011. They heard support for the modernizing four track alternative that does involve station consolidation, but offers benefits such as additional transfers, ADA accessibility and speeding up the route. Many riders also expressed serious concerns about the effects of consolidating stations--like extra walking time and new walking routes.

As a result of last year’s public comments, CTA eliminated two unpopular alternatives and added an alternative to the study that explores modernizing the line without any consolidation of stations.

This leaves four alternatives to be studied in this year’s environmental impact study: No action, basic rehabilitation, modernization with station consolidation and modernization without consolidation.

The CTA will now work to complete the draft Environmental Impact Study on these alternatives by the end of 2012, and riders and community members will have a chance to express their opinion on the findings of the study during the public comment period in early 2013. The revised alternatives, as well as the open house exhibit boards, can be found on the CTA website

The big trade off

When it comes to consolidating stations, no transit rider wants to see his or her station being closed. But most riders also would like to see the trains move faster. Consolidating stations would mean fewer stops and reduced travel time.

Under the consolidation scenarios, new entrances would be added to the stations to shorten walking distances from multiple directions. Some riders would therefore get a station entrance closer than the one they currently have.

But even a few blocks can be a dramatic change to a transit rider’s life. An extra 1/8 of a mile can add time to a commute, and it can be an even greater inconvenience for the elderly, disabled, and those with small children and strollers.

At the very least, overall station accessibility will be improved under any of the alternatives since it is a federal requirement that any major reconstruction must also include ADA compliance.

Ultimately, these are tradeoffs the transit-riding public and the neighborhood residents along the Red and Purple lines will need to decide.

Riders for Better Transit will be following the issue closely. Sign up to stay involved!
 

You're invited! Transit social February 7th!

You're invited! Transit social February 7th!

Active Trans and the Riders for Better Transit campaign want to meet you! We’re hosting a social so that we can get together and share our love for transit.

Please join us for this evening of fun and get to know others who want to make transit better in our region.

Riders for Better Transit Social
Tuesday, February 7
6:00pm-8:00pm
Blue Frog’s Local 22 (22 E. Hubbard, near Grand station on the Red Line )

Share this event on Facebook

Special guests Greg Borzo and Tracy Swartz will share some insights on Chicago transit. Greg Borzo is author of The Chicago "L", a popular book that covers the complete history of Chicago’s greatest working antique and biggest “mover & shaker.” Tracy Swartz authors the RedEye Chicago column “Going Public” and just recently completed a journey riding every one of Chicago’s 139 bus routes.
 
The event is free and open to the public; no RSVP necessary. Light snacks provided; cash bar available. Please email any questions about this event to Brenna@activetrans.org.

See you soon!
 

Congressional leaders declare war on transit

Congressional leaders declare war on transit

Congress is currently debating our federal transportation programs and spending, and the way things are going, the impacts to transit riders could be disastrous. This week, a committee of the House of Representatives released the text of a bill (H.R.3864) that would effectively transfer all funding from the federal Mass Transit Account—and put it into the Highway Account. This move would destroy a dedicated revenue source for transit, established by President Reagan thirty years ago, and jeopardize $5 billion annually for the nation’s transit systems. Some are calling it a declaration of war on transit.

This means transit agencies nationwide would have to fight for general funds every year. For 2012, RTA was planning to get approximately 12% of its total budget from federal sources, and CTA alone usually gets about $250 million per year. CTA uses this money for capital projects like station rehab, track improvement, and new cleaner buses and trains. Loss of this funding could put the brakes on all sorts of maintenance and expansion projects throughout the region, and it could translate into significant service cuts, fare increases, or both.

The outlook in this bill for funding walking and biking projects is similarly bleak.

Congress will be acting on this bill immediately. Tell your Representative to vote against this bill, and that this is exactly the wrong direction for our nation’s transportation.

We need to invest in a transportation system with transit, walking and biking as an integral part. This bill instead represents a doubling down on highways and abandonment of transit riders and communities.

Take action today!

Tell EPA: Don’t block cleaner air and hundreds of millions of dollars for biking, walking and transit in the region

Tell EPA: Don’t block cleaner air and hundreds of millions of dollars for biking, walking and transit in the region

Funding for dozens of new transportation projects are at risk. At-risk projects include bus rapid transit, protected bike lanes in Chicago, suburban bike trails, the Lake Front Trail Flyover, Chicago’s bike share program, and CTA station repairs, among others.

That’s because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the Chicago region now meets federal air quality standards and, as such, potentially loses roughly $80 million per year in funding for transportation projects that help reduce air pollution, called the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) fund. In total, 115 CMAQ projects totaling $411 million over five years are at risk.

The EPA is relying on air quality data through 2010, but air pollution levels actually exceeded standards in 2011. The EPA wants to use a technicality to exclude the 2011 data.

If the EPA changes our air quality designation, the CMAQ dollars would not be eliminated until Congress passes a new transportation bill—but that could happen as soon as this spring.

Meanwhile, the Illinois EPA (not the same as the U.S. EPA) says the region still has an air quality problem and that the 2011 data bears that out. If CMAQ dollars are lost, it will be more difficult to achieve air quality standards in the long run.

Please email the U.S. EPA by 5 p.m. on Thursday January 19 and tell them the Chicago region has not resolved its air quality problems, and that the EPA should use 2011 air quality data and keep in place CMAQ funding for clean air transportation projects.

Your support could make an important difference. Thanks!

Comments should be emailed to: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov
Attention Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2008–0476.
 

Metra riders, are you feeling the crunch yet?

Metra riders, are you feeling the crunch yet?

Last month Riders for Better Transit worked hard to spread the word about changes to the federal transit fare benefit that could cost transit riders even more to make their daily commutes.

Our members sent nearly 1,000 messages to the U.S. Congressional Delegation, explaining to them just how important it is for transit riders to be able to put aside $240 a month to pay for their transit fares, and that we should receive at least the same benefit as those who drive to work.

And what was the result?

In order to preserve the transit fare benefit at its current rate of $230--equal to that of the parking benefit for commuters--our federal representatives needed to vote for a bill that would guarantee permanent parity between the two.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it done. (Check out the bill and its sponsors here.)

As of January 1, the transit portion of the fare benefit dropped down to $125 a month, while the benefit for commuters who drive and park was increased to $240.

Congress’ inaction will hurt Metra riders since next month Metra fares are about to go up 25 percent. With February’s price increase, a monthly pass just to Metra's Zone C will now be $121. Monthly passes for Zones D through M will therefore exceed the amount of money that riders can put aside pre-tax to help pay for their commute.

Why did this happen?

Despite our efforts, the change that was necessary to save the transit fare benefit was lost in the noise of other discussions.

We know that millions of transit riders benefit from this program and will be negatively affected by this change, but our voice needs to be louder so our elected officials make this a priority.

Thank you to all of you who lent us your support. We’re not giving up! There’s still a chance we can make this change later this year. Riders for Better Transit will continue to be a voice for transit riders on this issue.

Join the movement to help us make an impact!
 

No war on cars

No war on cars

With 4,000 miles of streets and most of Chicago paved over to accommodate cars, it's hard to fathom how adding protected bike lanes and bus lanes to a tiny percentage of streets will force people out of their cars, as John McCarron insinuated in his article last week in the Chicago Tribune, "Chicago's war on Cars.”

This is no "war on cars." It is the city providing what most Chicagoans want: good alternatives to buying pricey gasoline to drive on congested roads, and safer streets that are walkable and vibrant.

Biking may not work for everyone, including McCarron, but it is an option for more and more people. Cycling has roughly doubled in Chicago over the past 10 years.

People cycle even more when you add protected bike lanes. Bike ridership took a huge jump during morning rush hour on Kinzie Street after installation of a protected bike lane.

A CDOT traffic count found that during the morning rush hour, bikes accounted for 53 percent of eastbound traffic on Kinzie. Protected bike lanes also reduce crashes of all types.

McCarron scoffs at new bus lanes, but you cannot compare the poorly designed State Street busway from the 1980s to modern bus facilities. Chicago needs to move people faster and more dependably by bus, and modern bus lanes all over the U.S. and the world prove that it can be done. And in many cases, cars move faster as well because the streets are less congested.

Active Trans and others encouraged people to write the Tribune in response to McCarron's ridiculous column, and wow did we write! These letters ran in the print edition yesterday, December 5.

The Tribune also ran what I wrote (included above) and other letters taking McCarron to task in the on-line edition. We must have really outnumbered any letters supporting McCarron—because the Trib didn't publish any!
 

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