Recently, we at Active Trans asked our members to share with us a few of their recent experiences with Metra as 2014 kicked off.
Many people shared stories of being stranded in sub-zero temperatures on platforms waiting for trains that weren’t coming.
They talked about service alerts that are inaccurate, trains that are late so often they’ve nearly cost passengers their jobs, and jam-packed cars made even more crowded by delays caused by equipment failures and shortened trains.
With more than four feet of snow having fallen in Chicago already this year and 11 days with temperatures below zero, some delays are inevitable and forgivable. But some of the problems we’ve noticed have been here all year long and are indicative of more systemic problems in Metra’s leadership and funding.
Metra riders, we hear you.
To make sure these concerns aren't ignored, we are taking these messages to those who can be held accountable: Metra leadership and our state legislature.
Soon the State’s House Mass Transit Committee will host a hearing on some of Metra’s recent shortcomings. We’ll be there to testify.
We’ll also follow up with Metra’s interim CEO to reiterate transit rider’s priorities for improving Metra service.
Here’s what we’re pushing for in 2014:
1) On-time arrival: Metra only works when it’s reliable. Riders count on trains to be on time no matter the weather, time of day or day of week. Metra reports an on-time arrival rate of 95 percent for recent years, but for weekend service when trains are already only operating once every two hours or less, on-time rates can be as low as 83 percent.
2) Communication: Riders have made it clear that communication is key for getting through trouble spots like rough weather, construction and unforeseeable delays. We need clear and accurate announcements about service alerts that are easily found online and clearly conveyed at the stations themselves. Even communication as simple as which side of the tracks to stand on to catch the correct train needs to be improved.
3) Technology: Metra needs to offer real-time train updates -- both online and at the stations. Metra needs to offer Ventra as a payment system on trains and/or at stations, and make it possible for anyone at any station at any time to board and pay with cash or credit. Riders have also been calling for wi-fi on trains which, in addition to being a great service offered by other commuter rail lines, is also required by law before 2015. This is the last chance to implement these changes.
4) Expanded service: Metra riders throughout the region are calling for more frequent trains and expansions of train lines. We especially support expanding service on the Heritage corridor, which operates between Chicago and Joliet, but serves few people because it runs only 3 round-trips a day!
We want Metra to provide better service to transit riders, and we’re going to tell them so.
But we recognize that many of the problems we find so frustrating -- the broken down train cars that cause crowding and delays, the slow assimilation to new technology and the limited service -- are directly related to the lack of funding for transit systems in our region.
As of December 2011, the amount of money needed over 10 years to have our total transit system in a state of good repair is $31.1 billion dollars. Of that total, Metra needs $9.7 billion.
It will take more than strong leadership within Metra to take that happen. For starters, our legislature will need to decide that our transit system is worth investing in.
Active Trans is meeting soon with the Chicago Department of Transportation’s new Commissioner, Rebekah Scheinfeld, and sharing our recommendations for CDOT’s priorities in the new year.
We’d love to hear what you think should be on CDOT’s to-do list for biking, walking and transit in the coming year. Please share your ideas below.
Active Trans’s 2014 priority list so far includes goals like:
Our draft list doesn’t stop there. In addition to these recommendations, we would love to hear from you and share some of your great ideas with CDOT.
Although CTA and Metra are the lead transit agencies, we’re including transit ideas because CDOT plays an important role in creating street designs that accommodate transit vehicles and access to transit.
We'll compile and share your input with CDOT and use your ideas to help guide our work in 2014. Please include your name and email address so we can keep you informed about our work (we won't pass your contact information along to anyone). Thanks for sharing your ideas.
And please join the fight for better biking, walking and transit by becoming a member of the Active Transportation Alliance today. Your membership supports programs and initiatives that will make the Chicago region a better place for walking, biking and transit.
Last week, People for Bikes and Alliance for Walking & Biking issued a great new report, Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business, and the voices of Chicago businesses are featured prominently.
The report offers the best compilation to date of facts, figures and stories that showcase the economic impact that protected bike lanes are making in cities across the U.S.
Specifically, the document highlights four key ways protected bike lanes are influencing the bottom line of all kinds of businesses: increasing real estate values, attracting talented residents, improving employee health and boosting retail traffic.
In addition to sharing key stats and research findings, the report also features the voices of real-world business owners telling their stories of how protected bike lanes are helping to boost their bottom line.
Here’s a breakdown of the Chicagoans that feature prominently in the report:
Too often when spotting a problem on the street we say “someone should really do something about this,” and move on with our day. But that’s not how change happens. It’s the leadership we take in the everyday little actions that ultimately add up to the big changes we all want to see in our city.
And if you don’t ask for what you want, you don’t get it.
For Chicago residents, using 311 to document problems, request city services, and track progress is one of the best tools we have for improving our city. A few simple tips can help ensure the information you report is useful and action is taken to address the issue you have identified.
1. KNOW YOUR OPTIONS. Phone, Website, Smartphone Apps.
With the rise of the internet and smartphones, residents have never had more options for making a request for city services. In addition to dialing 311 from any phone within the city, reports can also be made on the city’s website or through one of several smartphone applications.
Tip: Not all types of services can be requested through smartphone applications. For example, reporting uncleared snow on sidewalks requires you to call 311 or go to the city’s website. Remember too, that your neighbors might not have access to or feel comfortable using the internet, encourage them that using phone is just as good to report the things they see. To see a complete list of service types you can request through 311 follow this link.
2. BE SPECIFIC. Know what to ask for and document the details.
Before you get all excited and start dialing 311 or fire up your web browser, do a quick check to make sure you have all the basic information related to your request – location, description of the problem, type of service needed (don’t worry if you don’t know this last one).
This will help speed up filing your request, leaving more time for you to find other problems to report!
Tip: New smartphone applications make it easy to automatically note your location and document issues with photos and comments.
3. TRACK YOUR REQUEST. Make sure your request leads to results.
With any kind of advocacy, follow-up is everything. After you file your service request, you will receive a tracking number that lets you monitor the status of your report with the city’s Service Tracker website: servicetracker.cityofchicago.org.
You can also use this number to follow up with your alderman’s office for any issue; it makes it easier for them to track as well.
Note: This blog applies to the City of Chicago 311 system, but many suburban communities operate similar services.
Last night, Active Trans held a party to show appreciation for our legion of dedicated volunteers.
As a non-profit, Active Trans relies heavily on its volunteers to donate their time to help with advocacy work, office work and events — ranging from massive to miniscule.
Active Trans volunteers provide community outreach, facilitate campaigns, fix bicycles, manage hotlines, and assist with special events and fundraisers, such as the annual MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive.
A sincere “thank you” goes out to all of our hard-working volunteers from 2013, and an additional round of applause goes to the following individuals who received awards for their tireless work and commendable efforts.
Active Trans welcomes Liz Corrado, our new intern supporting Women Bike Chicago (WBC). We are hosting Corrado to support WBC’s efforts to educate and encourage more women in Chicago to choose biking for transportation.
WBC is a grass-roots organization founded in 2012 by women who love to bicycle. WBC’s mission is encouraging other women to bicycle -- for commuting, recreation, transportation, exercise and fun.
Corrado (pictured right) recently returned to Chicago after finishing her masters degree in urban planning at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
She has a love for biking and has experience working on walking- and biking-related projects as part of an education exchange in the Northern Netherlands. While in the Netherlands, Corrado worked on a project that examined the impact of school choice policy on active transportation rates.
As a paid intern at Active Trans, this spring Corrado will assist WBC with communications, operational processes and organization, and event management. Corrado will play a leading role helping to plan and coordinate the 2014 WBC “Women Bike Chicago, a Day of Dialogue and Demonstration” event.
For Active Trans, bringing Corrado into the office was another way for us to solidify our support for other local bicycling-oriented groups. We have sponsored West Town Bikes’ attendance at the national Youth Bike Summit, we are the fiscal agent for the Chicago chapter of Red Bike and Green, a group that promotes bicycling in the African-American community, and we partner with the Chicago Cycling Club to produce the Four-Star Bike and Chow, and the club gets a portion of the proceeds.
For more information about WBC, check out its blog or follow the organization on Facebook. Also connect with Corrado at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas to get more women biking in Chicago.
Please join Active Trans in 2014 for our big biking events. We’re excited about the 13th edition of our premier car-free ride and the delicious Four-Star Bike & Chow. We’re putting a bigger push behind this year’s Bike Commuter Challenge during Bike to Work Week and we’re introducing a cool new ride with a different twist.
We produce these fundraising events with a focus on fun. These events benefit Active Trans and support our work to improve biking, walking and transit Chicagoland. We hope you can ride with us in 2014!
MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive – Sunday, May 25
Join 20,000 of your bicycling friends on Chicago’s celebrated Lake Shore Drive for one of the most popular bike rides in the nation and the one day that the iconic lakefront roadway is closed to auto traffic. Registration opens at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 21 (Winter Bike to Work Day!) www.bikethedrive.org
Bike Commuter Challenge during Bike to Work Week June 13-20
Get your team ready and track your trips to see if your office has what it takes to be the healthiest and greenest in Chicagoland. You don’t have to bike all the way every day, just biking to your local bus or train stop one day counts as a trip. It’s easy, free and most of all, fun, with Bike Pit Stops located throughout Chicago and the suburbs to fuel up or get a safety check. We’ll give you all the tools you need to get your office going on two wheels. www.bikecommuterchallenge.org
Bike to Brew (new!) – Saturday, July 26
Join us for our new summer evening bike ride winding through Chicago’s industrial and residential streets and ending at Revolution Brewery for a private party with DJs, food trucks and tasty beers. Space is limited for this 21+ ride. Your registration guarantees you access to the party with two drink tickets and a special giveaway to make your bike ride awesome (think: cool lights or bike bell). The pre-ride festival will feature hip bike and urban exhibitors along with delicious samples of delicious Dark Matter Coffee. www.biketobrew.org (add this now to your MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive registration)
Four-Star Bike & Chow – Sunday, September 7
Experience the perfect combination of riding carefully created biking routes, sampling delicious cuisine like tacos, samosas or spring rolls and enjoying a tasty post-ride Revolution beer at the Four-Star Bike & Chow Sunday, September 7. Choose from four routes for all types of riders. We’re heading South this year to the new South Lake Shore Drive extension and beyond. www.fourstarbikeandchow.org (add this now to your MB Financial Bank Bike the Drive registration)
We hope you can join us for one, two or all of these rides!
The first female-centered bike shop in the Midwest will be opening in March at 2113 W. Armitage Ave. in the Bucktown neighborhood.
Owned by veteran cyclists Vanessa Buccella and Annie Byrne, BFF Bikes will offer bicycles, gear, women’s apparel not found in other city shops, dressing rooms and a primarily female staff.
Geared toward commuter cyclists and racers alike, the shop will carry Public city bikes and performance models from companies yet to be decided. With a pipeline to Minneapolis-based wholesale distributor Quality Bicycle Products, BFF will have a vast catalog of cycle parts and gear that can be ordered.
According the League of American Bicyclists, only 26 percent of Illinois bike commuters in 2011 were women. Buccella and Byrne want to help change that by encouraging more women to ride bikes. They visualize BFF Bikes as not only a neighborhood bike shop but also as a sort of a community center for women cyclists of all levels and interests.
“We want to get more women on bikes by normalizing cycling as a viable option for transportation, and helping them overcome any obstacles they see,” the owners said in statement.
To accomplish this, BFF is planning a variety of clinics, including Commuting 101 and a three-week series on bike anatomy, maintenance and options for different types of bikes.
As competitive bike racers, Buccella and Byrne also want to make bike racing more accessible to women. They have organized a BFF team of 16 women racers and will offer racing clinics.
From a business perspective, Buccella and Byrne hope to tap into the growing market for women’s cycling products. As Buccella points out, “I think this fact says it all: For the first time in U.S. history, 60 percent of bicycle owners between the ages of 18-27 are women. In addition, sales of women's specific bikes grew 20 percent 2010-2012, outpacing the sales of men and gender-neutral bikes. We want to help women who ride find products that will make their biking more fun, comfortable and better looking!”
Funding the Midwest’s first female-themed bike shop has not been easy. Traditional sources have provided the bulk of BFF’s start-up capital, but there is still a gap to be filled. Buccella and Byrnes are hoping to generate some of the needed funds from contributions that can be made at their indiegogo.com website.
Buccella says, “We want to spread the gospel of cycling — how much fun it is, how it's the perfect way to commute in the city, how it can take you places you've never been before.”
This post was written by Active Trans volunteer contributor Lynda Barckert.
Protected bike lanes are one of the best tools we have to encourage more people to use bicycles as transportation. But to fully reap cycling’s many benefits, we need to close gaps in the growing bike network and go beyond plastic posts to build the next-generation of protected bike lanes.
|A two-way curb-separated bike lane in Montréal, Québec. Photo: Adriana McMullen. Source: Streetsblog Chicago|
|A curb-separated bike lane with sloping curb in Portland, OR. Source: People for Bikes|
|Landscaped buffer in Coronado, CA. Source: People for Bikes|
Back in 2010-11 when Active Trans asked Chicago mayoral candidates to support a 100-mile network of protected bike lanes by 2015, many scoffed. That may fly in Europe, we were told, but this is Chicago. Cars are king and cyclists are lucky to get a white stripe between themselves and cars.
But Mayor Rahm Emanuel loved the idea and so did his Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner, Gabe Klein. Within 30 days of Emanuel’s inauguration, the city’s first protected bike lane was installed on Kinzie.
Many more projects have followed, and Chicago is leading the nation on advanced bike infrastructure:
In order to make rapid progress and demonstrate “proof of concept,” all on a shoestring budget, Chicago has used basic plastic bollards, paint and parked cars for its protected bike lanes.
It’s now time for the next generation of protected lanes, and the city has a new infusion of federal transportation grant dollars to do it.
CDOT can now emphasize closing gaps to create a connected network of low-stress routes, combining neighborhood streets (with “Neighborhood Greenways” upgrades), protected bike lanes and trails where everyone, including beginners and less-confident cyclists, can feel comfortable and get places.
CDOT should also include “hardscaping” with current and future protected bike lanes with permanent, attractive and safer ways to separate traffic, like curbs, landscaped medians or raised bike lanes.
People for Bikes recently wrote about 19 different ways to separate traffic! (Here are a few examples at right.) It’s also important for the city to fix pavement and drainage problems and plow the lanes.
We say do it, and don’t stop there!
A new year, a new benefit!
Divvy bike-share has taken Chicago by storm and it’s only getting better with 175 stations being added to the network in 2014! Now's your chance to get in on the action and save!
So how does it work?
When will I get my special Divvy discount code?
Discount codes will be distributed with all new and renewing premium level or higher membership kits. Your member kit should arrive within 1–3 weeks after your payment is received.
I'm already an Active Trans member -- can I get a code?
You can get a code when you renew your Active Trans membership. If you want to take advantage of the Divvy offer sooner rather than later, feel free to renew a little early. We'll tack on an additional 12 months to your current membership. Plus, you can save us the cost of mailing you a reminder down the road. Win-Win!
I'm already a Divvy member -- can I get a credit for the amount of the discount?
Sorry, you can't get a credit from Divvy. However, your code won't expire until the end of the year – so be sure to save it for later!
Will a Divvy benefit be available for business members?
Yes! Business members will receive 24-hour Divvy passes with their membership kit.