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!
We already know transit fares will be going up for many riders next year. Metra riders will pay 25 percent more to get around our region and CTA fare hikes are still on the table for 2012.
Unfortunately, there's a chance riders may be taking yet another hit. If Congress doesn't act this month, you may be paying even more for transit next year!
Right now transit riders and drivers can pay their fares and parking expenses with pre-tax dollars out of their paycheck -- up to $230 per month. Transit riders receive this commuter benefit through their employers and can save more than $1,000 each year on their transit expenses (if you're not already getting this benefit, encourage your employer to sign up now!)
But if Congress doesn't act now, at the end of this year that benefit program will be cut nearly in half for transit riders, costing many riders hundreds of dollars more each year.
Drivers will continue to receive the full tax benefit for parking expenses up to $230 per month. Transit riders deserve equal benefits. This represents a tax increase that will feel like a second fare hike for many transit riders.
Tell your members of Congress to have a heart this holiday season by supporting the Commuter Benefits Equity Act (H.R. 2412, S. 1034), which would preserve this important benefit for transit riders. Transit riders in the Chicago region can't afford to take another hit!
It’s been an eventful few weeks for transit in the Chicago region. So here’s a recap to keep you up-to-date.
Cook County backs off CTA funding cuts – thank you for taking action!
Thank you to our supporters who took action to prevent CTA funding cuts! The Cook County Board waded into the transit budget fray last week by suddenly proposing to slash county funding for the CTA by two-thirds, from $2 million to just $675,000—and jeopardizing at least another $128 million in RTA discretionary funding.
Riders for Better Transit responded by issuing an action alert and many of you took action, sending more than 1,000 messages to Cook County leaders in less than 24 hours. Our voices were heard. We’re happy to report that the next day Cook County dropped the proposal to cut CTA funding!
Update on fare increases and service cuts – Metra and CTA approve budgets
As Metra and CTA rolled out their budgets this fall, Riders for Better Transit issued an action alert to hold our elected leaders responsible for the lack of transit funding in our region.
We'll continue to face the annual threat of service cuts and fare increases as long as Chicagoland train and bus service is insufficiently funded. Our supporters have taken action by sending nearly 3,000 messages to their state and federal elected representatives!
These elected leaders hold the purse strings, and riders are speaking out in unison, sending a clear message that we need to increase investment in transit. We know many of you even received responses from your elected leaders, showing that our message is starting to get through.
Riders for Better Transit staff also gave public comments at CTA's and Metra's budget hearings. We still have a long battle ahead of us to win additional transit funding, and we knew this would not be an easy or short-term effort. With your help, we can continue to build the voice of transit riders to be a powerful force.
Metra fares are increasing
On Nov. 11, Metra’s Board approved its proposed budget, which includes an average 25 percent fare increase for 2012. We know this will be a hardship for many riders. Riders, please also note that Metra has changed the expiration policy for some tickets to help prevent stockpiling. Tickets bought after Nov. 12 will expire in February (details here).
CTA fare increases and service cuts remain uncertain
The CTA approved its budget Nov. 15. As we’ve written previously, the CTA proposed a budget with no service cuts or fare hikes, but this is largely based on the uncertain outcome of labor negotiations.
The union contract expires at the end of December, and depending on the outcome of labor negotiations, CTA may need to revisit its budget in the spring. We’ll keep you posted.
We encourage CTA management and labor to negotiate in good faith to find any possible efficiencies on both sides that could prevent service cuts and fare increases, but we recognize that ultimately the CTA’s budget deficit is the responsibility of our elected leaders who have put transit on the back-burner.
Please tell your friends (and maybe even your family, over turkey dinner) that they can help too.
As Active Transportation Alliance employees, we always attempt to walk, bike or take transit when visiting clients or attending meetings away from the office.
Recently, I needed to be at McHenry West High School to lead a student session at 3 p.m. on a weekday as part of a larger project in McHenry County high schools.
McHenry County is 40+ miles northwest of downtown Chicago, and McHenry (the city) is about a 50-mile drive from the Active Trans offices.
While McHenry (the city) does have a Metra stop on the Union Pacific NW line, the station is served from Chicago only three times daily--and none of those times were even close to assisting with my schedule. Crystal Lake is served more regularly and lies about an 8 mile bike ride from McHenry West High School, but Tuesday’s weather was not at all conducive to biking, so I made other plans.
McHenry County has three Pace bus routes, one of which runs between Crystal Lake and McHenry. However, once again, the schedule did not work to my advantage for my meeting time, since the route shuts down midday from about 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Luckily I had a contact who had offered to pick me up, so I took the Metra to Crystal Lake and my contact drove me the rest of the way to my meeting.
After the meeting, I planned to catch Pace Bus Route 806 to the Crystal Lake Metra station for my return to Chicago. I had looked at the map, and the route traveled right past the school and, according to its schedule, would get me to the station at 4:59 to catch the 5 p.m. train. At least I hoped it would…
I stepped out of the school, about 1/2 a mile south of downtown McHenry, and looked left and right for a bus stop sign but saw none. I had 20 minutes before the bus was scheduled to pass, so I walked about 10 minutes down the road, looking for a bus stop sign. Finding no signs, I decided to stand next to a traffic light just outside a post office and wait vigilantly, ready to wave down the bus when it did arrive.
Once the bus arrived, I chatted a bit with the driver who, after I said I was hoping to catch the 5 p.m. train to Chicago, assured me “I usually make that one.” We arrived at the train station with about 2 minutes to spare.
I consider myself an “advanced” transit user, but navigating the options for travel in this situation was a challenge even for me. I commend Pace and McHenry County for the transit options that are currently available, and they are certainly a first step, but there is still a lot of work to do in relation to signage, education and level of service to make transit a viable option for residents and commuters in McHenry County, especially those who cannot or do not have access to a personal vehicle.
In recent weeks, Active Trans has appeared at both CTA and Metra budget hearings with the urgent message that service reductions and fare hikes are not the answer. Instead, what's needed is more support from our political representatives who hold the purse strings.
If you want to help make transit better in Chicagoland, support Active Trans' Riders for Better Transit campaign.
Over the last week, representatives from Active Trans' Riders for Better Transit campaign attended both the CTA and Metra public hearings about their proposed budgets for 2012.
We made sure to tell the transit agencies that our riders need fares to stay low and that we can’t face any more service cuts.
It seems like every year there’s a doomsday scenario when transit agencies are faced with the dilemma of increasing fares or cutting service, and our only option as riders is to try to adjust.
We told Metra and CTA it’s time to end this cycle.
Unfortunately, some key players were missing from the hearings—our elected officials!
To really solve the problem, we need to look at the way public transportation is funded by our elected leaders at the local, state and national level. Transit in our region has been significantly underfunded and riders are suffering today as a result.
Thanks so much to our Riders for Better Transit members who came out to the hearings with us!
Representatives from Mercy Housing, DePaul University student government, the Mikva challenge and the Natural Resources Defense Council—our partners in this effort—came to show their support and add their voices.
Check out these pictures of the CTA hearing—it was a packed house!
It’s clear that riders in Chicago care about the state of our public transportation. We need to use this energy to focus on getting results and winning more funding for transit!
Active Trans applauds Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for investing in our region’s transit system. Yesterday's announcement to allocate $1 billion to improve the Red and Purple Lines is a great step in the right direction, but it unfortunately falls short of the cost of fully repairing and modernizing these train lines, which the CTA has estimated at $2-4 billion -- just for the Red and Purple Lines north of Belmont.
Our region still has a long way to go toward creating the 21st century transit system we deserve.
Transit in Chicagoland is significantly underfunded. Demand for transit in our region is increasing, yet we are faced again with possible fare increases and service cuts from CTA and Metra.
Transit riders also contend with slow zones, overcrowded trains and buses, and long waits at stations that are dirty and in need of repairs.
Bringing the Red and Purple Lines into a state of good repair is an essential investment, but enormous challenges still remain.
CTA, Metra and Pace together are in need of $24 billion in capital funding to keep our region’s transit system in a state of good repair. To create a 21st century transit system, we need to move beyond simply maintaining what we have.
We need to expand and enhance service, including extending the Red Line to 130th Street. Our transit agencies also continue to face operational deficits because of a lack of funding, which has led to annual doomsdays of fare increases and service cuts.
Our elected officials hold the purse strings. Active Trans encourages Governor Quinn and Mayor Emanuel to continue to make transit a priority.
You can encourage your elected leaders to increase investment in transit through our Riders for Better Transit campaign.
Did you know that Wendella Boats have been offering water taxi commuter service in Chicago for nearly 50 years?
Did you know that an additional Chicago water taxi service was launched in 2009?
Did you know you can take a water taxi between the Loop and Chinatown?
Yeah, I didn't either. At least not until I read the article about Chicago's water taxi services that recently appeared in Active Trans' member newsletter.
The article was written by volunteer Modeshift contributor, Mary Chris Jaklevic.
Last week the CTA announced its proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. Transit riders everywhere sighed in relief as they read that Forrest Claypool, the head of CTA, declared no service cuts or fare increases would be implemented…. maybe… tentatively… if and only if….
|photo credit: Leslie Bacon|
It’s true, the CTA’s proposed budget as it stands does not include service cuts or fare increases. Based on what we knew about the financial trouble of the CTA--and that Metra’s proposed budget includes a significant fare increase--it’s fair to say that we as riders were bracing ourselves for something worse.
But in this budget, keeping fares and service levels as they are now is precariously balanced on top of a pyramid of contingencies that should have riders very worried.
CTA has made significant cuts in their management and budget, attempting to improve efficiencies within the agency. We as riders applaud this.
But in the proposed budget, CTA's plan to make up the rest of the deficit is dependent on re-negotiation of the labor contracts with the union employees who operate our trains and buses.
Riders for Better Transit encourages finding efficiencies in labor just as we encourage the CTA to cut all possible costs before turning to the riders to bail them out. But we also value our transit operators and understand their need for a living wage and benefits.
Whose side should you take?
As riders we only stand to lose if we take sides in this argument. The CTA and the transit operators are our allies--they care as much as we do that public transit continues to run and improve.
We are their customers and they would love nothing more than to provide us with the best service possible.
We encourage both CTA’s leadership and the local ATU to negotiate in good faith and find a solution that doesn’t reduce service or raise fares.
As transit riders, we want to be a voice in this argument, not a pawn. The burden of bringing our transit agencies to a state of financial stability is being tossed around like a hot potato from the CTA to labor with the very real possibility that at the end of the day it will still land on riders.
It should really fall on our elected officials. Only they have the power to prioritize transit and invest in it meaningfully.
So, hurray for no service cuts or fare hikes?
Let’s not forget, the best case scenario here is that successful negotiations keep fares where they are, giving transit riders the same service we have now--no restoration of the 2010 service cuts and no extensions or expansions. For better transit, we need sufficient and sustainable sources of funding, and neither labor unions nor the CTA will be able to provide that on their own.
Help us speak up. Join Riders for Better Transit today.
If you’ve spent much time in Chicago, you’ve likely seen them peeking through the asphalt when roads are scraped down for resurfacing. During pothole season they sometimes reveal themselves, too.
|Chicago streetcar photo courtesy of Katherine of Chicago|
Old trolley tracks sit below many miles of Chicago streets. Every so often we get a glimpse of them, reminding us of the extensive trolley system that once operated in Chicago.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the city’s first streetcar started operating in 1859 and the final one was retired in 1958. Initially, the trolleys were pulled by horses. Then they were pulled by underground cables and eventually were powered by electrical lines that ran overhead.
Want to see some great photos of Chicago streetcars? The CTA has been creating videos in the past couple of years focusing on the history of Chicago transit.
The October 2011 video shows a World War II-era streetcar that was enlisted to help with the military recruitment effort. The video also features a repair crew performing the tricky work of fixing streetcar lines at one of Chicago’s wide triple intersections.
Congrats to RedEye Chicago on a very successful Brown Line El Crawl this past weekend!
I caught up with the group on their way to the second of 5 bars near the Chicago stop on the Brown Line. The group took up three train cars and was expecting to pick up more people as the day went on.
This el crawl was the second such event put on by RedEye Chicago, following a July 30th event that featured the Red Line.
See, transit isn’t just about getting to work!
It looks like the group had a lot of fun. Check out their pictures here.