Metra has proposed raising fares 25 percent in their 2012 budget, and the CTA is expected to propose fare increases and service cuts in coming days as well.
Sadly, this has become an annual tradition in the Chicago region because transit is significantly under funded.
Ultimately, it's our elected leaders who hold the purse strings and decide whether transit agencies will have enough funding to make ends meet. Transit riders must demand that the people we elect increase investment in transit.
A couple weeks ago I attended the 11th meeting of the I-290 Corridor Advisory Group and Task Force. The group is currently considering many proposals for how to improve mobility in the I-290 corridor.
The Eisenhower is one of the oldest segments of the region’s highway infrastructure and one of the first in the nation to incorporate a rapid transit line and an expressway within the same corridor.
This relationship has functioned successfully -- which means transit should be an important focus of any reconstruction or improvement project.
At the meeting, the Illinois Department of Transportation presented a number of project options, from extending CTA's Blue Line all the way to Oak Brook Mall to adding more freeway lanes.
It’s early in the process, but one of the options really gives us cause for alarm: tearing out the Blue Line in favor of additional freeway lanes and some express buses.
We need to expand and improve transit options in the corridor and focus on moving people, not just cars. This means don’t get rid of existing transit like the Blue Line. Instead, consider the options that extend the Blue Line to bring it up to date with where people live and travel today.
Other options such as Bus Rapid Transit may provide good ways to extend service to new areas, but it should make sense with the transit we already have and the riders' needs.
We can’t continually build ourselves out of congestion by adding new lanes. This is a short-term solution that may lower commute times for drivers initially, but ultimately will just lead to even more congestion and create broader consequences for our environment.
Sign on to Riders for Better Transit. Be prepared to join with other transit riders in speaking out about this.
Lots of news this week about Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
|Photo by Scott Stark, courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.|
The Illinois native has done a lot to help alternative transportation during the three years he has been at the DOT, including many projects that are very important to Illinois.
Just this month the U.S. DOT awarded $196.5 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation to improve rail travel between Detroit and Chicago, which will ultimately reduce travel time by 30 min.
He also spoke at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s 25th anniversary reception, advocating for the great health benefits from the rails-to-trails program.
A blog from the America Walks Forum reminds us, “Sec. LaHood is perhaps best remembered by active transportation advocates for his impassioned speech on the floor of Congress in 2003, when he defended the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program—the largest source of funding for trails, walking and bicycling facilities—which continues to face legislative threats in the current Congress.”
Last night, to underscore all this, Active Trans gave the secretary the Extra Mile Award for his leadership in promoting safety, sustainable transportation and livable communities. Accepting the award on the secretary’s behalf at Active Trans' 25th Anniversary Celebration was Polly Trottenberg, the assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. (The anniversary celebration, by the way, was a fantastic event that brought together sustainable transportation luminaries from around the nation.)
Secretary LaHood has announced that he will only stay on the job for one term and he will not run for public office again.
We thank him for the hard work he has done for us! Check out Secretary LaHood's blog for more information about the work the DOT is doing.
At yesterday's CTA board meeting, Riders for Better Transit gave the following public comments:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Lee Crandell and I manage the Riders for Better Transit initiative at the Active Transportation Alliance. We have 6,800 members in the Chicago region who support our mission to improve conditions for biking, walking and public transportation.
It's become a Chicago tradition that every year around this time, transit riders cross their fingers and hope they won’t be hit with service cuts and fare increases. Unfortunately, it looks like the tradition will continue this year.
There are no winners when our transit agencies are forced to make these tough decisions. As you already know, the consequences of service cuts and fare increases would be far-reaching, impacting our mobility, our economy, our quality of life, our environment, the congestion on our streets. The impact on our daily lives would be very real, making everyday activities more difficult for people from all walks of life—from a child trying to get to school, a worker getting to their job, and a grandmother trying to visit her grandchildren.
As a world-class region, we deserve better. Our transit service should be improving and expanding, not slipping backwards.
Criticizing the CTA or the unions in this situation is a normal reaction—and certainly on behalf of the riders we represent, we urge you to explore every possible efficiency to prevent service cuts and fare hikes—but ultimately, it's our elected leaders who hold the purse strings and decide whether our transit agencies will have enough funding to make ends meet. Transit is significantly under-funded because our elected leaders at the local, state and federal levels have put it on the back-burner. And that means we, as transit riders and as voters, also bear some burden of responsibility. Riders for Better Transit will be asking our elected leaders to end the cycle of service cuts and fare increases by increasing investment in transit.
I’m here today to tell you that transit riders are ready to speak up, and we hope you will join us.
Please ask our elected leaders, including those who appointed you: how are you supposed to fulfill your duties as a CTA board member if they don’t adequately fund transit for our region?
Update: On Friday, Oct. 14, Riders for Better Transit provided a similar testimoney at Metra's Board of Directors meeting, where the 2012 budget was proposed.
As most of us know, CTA has a very popular Bus Tracker service that provides real-time arrival information for CTA buses. But did you know that Pace had a similar service even before Bus Tracker existed?
Pace WebWatch (and yes, I think the name needs work) is a web-based service that provides real-time departure information for Pace fixed-route buses. It also provides a map system that displays the exact location of buses.
A text-only version is available, too, making it easier to load on a smartphone. Email notifications are available (text messaging would be better).
So, in short, you can get real-time bus information anywhere in more than 210 communities throughout northeast Illinois. Enjoy your ride!
We all love to talk about the need for better rail service, but rarely notice when these complicated infrastructure projects actually find a solution.
The CREATE initiative is one such program. The Englewood Flyover is a project that will not only improve service and efficiency for freight, passenger and commuter rail, but will also create (ha!) 1,500 jobs in the process.
Thank you Alderman Solis for requesting 39 new bicycle racks for Chicago's 25th Ward!
All of these bike racks are scheduled to be installed before the end of the year (see below for the list). If you would like to request additional bike racks in the 25th Ward, you can do so online.
In addition to the new bike racks, the 25th Ward is also getting four LED CTA Bus Tracker signs installed!
CTA is unveiling the first 150 LED signs that will be installed at select bus shelters throughout the city. The signs will provide customers with estimated arrival times via CTA Bus Tracker for the next four buses serving the particular location.
Installation of the signs begins later this month and will continue through early next year. Bus shelters featuring the new LED signs will display four lines of text with arrival information specific to the location of the bus stop.
The locations in the 25th Ward are:
Western & Roosevelt (Northbound)
Western & Cermak (Southbound & Northbound)
Roosevelt & Halsted (Eastbound)
A complete list of the bus shelter locations will be posted on the CTA web site, with the first 150 sites to be listed immediately.
The Chicago Department of Transportation has chosen the following locations to install new bicycle racks in the 25th Ward
Los Jasmines, 1102 W. 18th St.
Imperial Stress Reduction, 1130 W. 18th St.
El Trebol, 1135 W. 18th St.
Honky Tonk BBQ, 1213 W. 18th St. & 1800 S. Racine Ave.
Preservation Society, 1253 W. 18th St.
Radio Arte, 1401 W. 18th St.
Cocina Mundial, 1640 W. 18th Pl.
Pilsen Castle, 1343 W. 19th St.
Martin's Corner, 2056 W. 22nd Pl.
Efebinas Coffee Shop, 1626 S. Blue Island Ave.
Mary, 1901 S. Canalport Ave.
Metropolitan Tenants Organization, 2150 S. Canalport Ave.
Mike's Tires, 1803 S. Carpenter St.
Nam Bak Hang, 243 W. Cermak Rd.
Steak n' Egger, 1174 W. Cermak Rd.
Tipping Point Acupuncture, 1923 S. Des Plaines St.
Barbaras Books, 1218 S. Halsted
La Taberna Tapas Restaurant, 1301 S. Halsted St.
Nightwood, 2119 S. Halsted St.
Skylark, 2139 S. Halsted
Little Joe's, 1041 W. Taylor St.
Thai Bowl, 1049 W. Taylor St.
Chicago Textbooks, 1076 W. Taylor St.
Village Eyecare, 1116 W. Taylor St.
Gentiles Wine Shop, 1160 W. Taylor St.
Bacci Pizza, 2301 W. Taylor St.
Mirage Beauty Salon, 1801 S. Throop St.
Lavandaria Pilsen, 1802 S. Throop St.
Pui Tak Center, 2218 S. Wentworth Ave.
Chinese Christian Union Church, 2301 S. Wentworth Ave.
Great Taste House, 2342 S. Wentworth Ave.
Yin Wall City, Inc., 2347 S. Wentworth Ave.
Chinatown Library, 2353 S. Wentworth Ave.
Working Bikes Cooperative, 2434 S. Western Ave.
2150 W. 21st St.
2229 S. Halsted St.
1924 S. Jefferson St.
A new travel policy for city employees will highlight transit as the preferred way to get around, according to a recent Chicago Tribune article. It's a small step but an encouraging sign from the city that transit will be recognized as an integral part of our daily lives in Chicago. Perhaps some city employees would consider joining our Riders for Better Transit campaign.
Free help is available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encouraging governments to implement smart growth practices.
What is Smart Growth? It’s is a planning and land use philosophy that promotes well thought out, livable community development.
If you live or work in a community that is growing, please share this info with your elected officials! The deadline is October 25, 2011.
Why should people in Chicagoland care about this? Because the built environment and how we develop has everything to do with how people choose to get around.
Consider this unfortunate but entirely common scenario:
You have to go to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled. The closest pharmacy is at the supermarket about two miles from your subdivision. The long, winding roads and cul de sacs in your neighborhood add about another half mile to that distance. If you had the time and energy and the weather was nice, you might decide to walk it, but there are no sidewalks on the main road connecting your subdivision and the shopping center. That distance is bikeable. If you were brave you could ride your bicycle on the four lane road but you’d have to share a lane with cars moving at about 40 miles per hour, and once you got to the store there’d be nowhere to lock up your bike.
If you were lucky enough to live near a transit stop you’d find that the bus stop at your destination doesn’t connect to a sidewalk. If it were summer time, you could make your way across the grass to the supermarket parking lot because there wouldn’t be any big snow banks to contend with. You’d still have to navigate another quarter mile across the parking lot. The cars are constantly backing in and out of spaces, everyone’s in a hurry, everyone’s running an errand and people aren’t expecting to see you. After you’d picked up your prescription you’d have to turn around and start all over again.
You think about what it would be like to do this with your kids in tow, or on crutches, or with a cane. What would most people choose to do when faced with these active transportation options? They’d drive instead. That is, if they can afford a car and no disability or age restrictions prevent them from driving.
If we want people to choose healthy, environmentally responsible active transportation, we need to make sure that every part of our built environment will foster this choice; not only our roadways, but the developments and neighborhoods that they connect.
Tools from Smart Growth America can help local governments to see the big picture and ensure that new developments are planned to promote healthy living.
Last week’s Don’t X Out Public Transportation rally was a huge success! Thank you to all those who participated.
The event, held in Chicago at Union Station, was coordinated nationwide with rallies in California, New York, Massachusetts and many others.
Transit advocacy groups such as Transportation for America, Active Transportation Alliance and local labor unions representing transit workers gathered together to remind transit riders and our elected officials that funding for transit is important and should not be cut.
Here's a quote from Ron Burke, executive director of Active Trans, who offered a few remarks at the event:
“The main issue is transit is already inadequately funded and for Congress to consider cutting funding is disturbing. Why is it transit seems to merit relatively little attention from our elected officials? I think it’s because transit riders are not well organized and we’re not viewed as a constituency by lawmakers. We’re trying to change that.”