The recent controversy over the resignation of former Metra executive director Alex Clifford is seriously compromising the ability of Metra to address the important issues affecting the quality of Metra's service.
The situation called for a change in Metra Board leadership, and with the resignation of Chairman Brad O'Halloran, Metra should begin to rebuild public trust and refocus on providing better transit service.
The Clifford controversy is based on allegations of political interference in the operations of Metra. The Active Transportation Alliance calls on elected officials who oversee transit agencies and appoint board members to ensure that agencies are represented on the board by qualified professionals who are also strong advocates for transit and who in turn will appoint the most professional executive to lead each agency.
While these professionals should be held accountable for transit performance, they should also operate free of political intervention with a focus on improving transit performance for existing riders and attracting new riders.
With this in mind, we encourage the Illinois House Mass Transit Committee to investigate the pros and cons of new methods of designating transit agency board members, including through popular election.
This controversy is an unfortunate distraction from a long list of problems that face Metra as well as CTA and PACE.
Only 12 percent of suburban residents can get to a typical job in less than 90 minutes on transit, according to research by the Brookings Institute. This helps explain why Metro Chicago ranks just eleventh nationally for per capita transit ridership.
Recent fare increases necessitated by chronic funding shortfalls – including Metra’s largest fare increase ever in 2011 – have been insufficient to overcome system deterioration that RTA chair Robert Gates says will only get worse.
Service problems and higher fares have led to far weaker transit growth here than in peer regions like New York and Boston.
A study prepared for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce estimates that future transit funding is on track to only meet one-quarter of what is needed to keep the existing system in a state of good repair, not to mention any new transit service.
The study also finds that failing infrastructure could decrease ridership by 20 percent, and that declining transit service could result in the loss of 15,000 to 40,000 direct jobs.
In order to tackle these pressing needs, Metra needs to put this controversy behind it by openly taking steps to address and prevent concerns of political interference.
Good news from our nation's capital! The threat from anti-biking and walking amendments — which has kept biking and walking advocates busy while biting their nails for the past 48 hours — has subsided in the U.S. House and Senate. At least for now.
A huge thanks to everyone who contacted their members of Congress this week!
As of late yesterday, it appears unlikely that the Senate will even vote on two terrible amendments, sponsored by Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, to strip all funding from the Transporation Alternatives Program — a major source of funding for biking and walking programs in Illinois and across the country.
And in a surprise turnaround, House leadership announced it will not be debating a national transportation funding bill this week.
With the August recess starting next week, that means crucial biking and walking programs are safe from potential copy-cat amendments in the House, at least through September.
We'll keep working with our partner groups in D.C. to monitor the situation in the Senate.
For now, fans of active transporation can breathe a sigh of relief.
While the threat to funding now appears unlikely, there's still a chance it could happen. So if you haven't yet weighed in, please do so with your Senators here. Thanks again for taking action!
Quick update on this week's anti-biking and walking amendments in Congress.
In an unexpected move, the House delayed debate on limiting amendments until Wednesday. This means that we will have very little turn-around between the amendment introduction and the vote.
So there was no late-night threat last night, but it could still pop up today. For advocates, this means that we should all stay alert today in case the House introduces a last-minute anti-bike/ped amendment.
Meanwhile, things have quieted down in the Senate. While two different senators have introduced amendments to stop funding biking and walking, neither of those amendments are on today's schedule.
Thanks to the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking for this info. Stay tuned for more updates!
Also, you can keep up with latest news by following the Twitter hashtag #saveta.
U. S. Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee have both proposed amendments to the federal transportation bill that would strip the Transportation Alternatives program of all funds.
The Transportation Alternative (T.A.) program is a major source of national funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects.
Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to debate this transportation funding TODAY (Tuesday, July 30).
Please contact your Senators and urge them to vote NO on both the Paul Amendment 1742 and the Lee Amendment 1798.
Also, be on the watch for a late night request to tweet your congressional representative to do the same!
Take action on the League of American Bicyclists website.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is still accepting comments on the first ever Illinois Bike Plan, which will focus on state policy, state roads and regional trails.
Let IDOT know that bicycling is an integral part of our transportation network and that this bike plan should make real commitments to improve conditions for cycling!
Please submit comments to IDOT at: Gabe.Sulkes@illinois.gov. Here are some key points Active Trans is asking supporters to make:
If you missed the public meetings, IDOT is holding a public webinar today (Tuesday) from noon to 1 p.m.
As part of Active Trans' Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign, staff from the organization recently visited the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail group to talk about changes that would make Vincennes Avenue a safer street for everyone.
Since Vincennes between 85th and 103rd Streets is currently being resurfaced by the Chicago Department of Transportation, we told group members that it's a good time to ask for bike and pedestrian improvements to the street.
When asked their top three safety issues for Vincennes, group members listed
1. People driving dangerously fast on the length of the street
2. Unsafe crossings at churches, schools and Metra stations
3. A few key intersections that are dangerous for people on foot, on bikes and in cars
Recognizing that the street would be a great bike route if it wasn’t so scary, group members asked that the city consider adding a protected bike lane to the plans.
Several members of the group agreed that a strong, permanent barrier between bikes and cars would be an important addition.
A bike lane separated from car traffic with concrete barriers would have several benefits, the group noted. It would make it safer to bike and it would narrow the street to slow down traffic, making the street easier to cross at the many churches and schools along the route.
Some street crossings on Vincennes provide access to Metra stations, but due to the speed of the street traffic, the timing of the lights and the complicated intersections, accessing transit is difficult and sometimes unsafe.
Finally, the group agreed unanimously that it would like to expand the project a bit to include two more troubling intersections: 83rd Street on the north and 105th Street on the south.
Not all important stakeholders along Vincennes could make it to the meeting. Active Trans will continue working with the Major Taylor Trail group and others as the project moves forward.
Photo above shows members of the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail discussing how to make Vincennes safer and more inviting.
To celebrate the new protected bike lane on 31st St. in Bronzeville, 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell and the Active Transportation Alliance recently organized a community bike ride. Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the ride as the guest of honor.
|Some participants of the recent 3rd Ward Bike Ride, including Mayor Emanuel (right of center), Ald. Dowell (left of center) and Active Trans executive director Ron Burke (left of Dowell).|
For the 4-mile ride, Bike and Roll and Divvy provided free bike rentals, and Blackstone Bicycle Works, a bike shop in Woodlawn, provided free bike maintenance.
After her trip to Copenhagen, Denmark last summer, Ald. Dowell developed a strong interest in boosting the number of people riding bikes in her ward.
As part of that strategy, she wants to see more protected bike lanes in her ward and ensure that residents in the ward have access to Divvy.
In addition to the new protected bike lane on 31st St., here are some other exciting developments happening in the ward.
Active Trans is part of a coalition of 15 regional organizations that today released a civic platform for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive (PDF). The platform calls for a bold vision that will meet the needs of everyone who uses the lakefront.
The document is based on seven principles and includes a host of recommendations for the Illinois Department of Transportation and Chicago Department of Transportation as they embark on a planning study for the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive between Grand and Hollywood avenues.
Rather than reinforce the slow shift toward a superhighway, we urge Chicagoans to weigh in with your ideas to ensure North Lake Shore Drive serves neighborhood residents, tourists, pedestrians, bicyclists, runners, transit users and park-goers.
To make your voice heard, attend an upcoming public meeting about North Lake Shore Drive reconstruction on Aug. 6, 7 or 8.
This planning study offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to “Redefine the Drive.” Would you like to see bus-only lanes on Lake Shore Drive and split the Lakefront Trail into two paths to separate higher-speed bike traffic from more leisurely uses?
These are the kinds of ideas Chicago must pursue if we want a future for the lakefront that better serves everyone's needs. Download the civic platform to check out other recommendations for the north lakefront. Then take your favorites to the public meetings.
“Chicagoans deserve an iconic roadway that’s not just scenic to drive along, but is also an asset for everyone who uses the lakefront,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “Our lakefront is an important corridor and green space for walking, biking, running and public transportation.”
“An investment of this scale should not only address today’s needs, but also anticipate our region’s future,” said MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council. “This means recognizing that Lake Shore Drive isn’t merely a transportation thoroughfare but plays a critical role in creating a livable, economically vibrant city and region.”
“We envision a Lake Shore Drive that creates a stronger connection between Chicagoans and their lakefront, knitting together our neighborhoods, our parks and our beaches,” said Erma Tranter, executive director of Friends of the Park. “Our lakefront represents what is best about Chicago, attracting an estimated 60 million annual visitors.”
You can expect this conversation about the future of North Lake Shore Drive to last for several years, but as residents of Chicagoland, it's critical that we do our part to get the project started off in the right direction by clearly asserting our vision for the future of the lakefront.
Please join us in speaking up and attending the public meetings!
825 West Sheridan Road, 3rd Floor
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Open House: 6 – 8 p.m.
1145 West Wilson Avenue, Atrium
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Open House: 6 – 8 p.m.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 North Cannon Drive, South Gallery
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Open House: 6 – 8 p.m.
Do you love cycling?
Love Chicago and your local neighborhood?
Enjoy talking with people and being rewarded for your efforts?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you should join the Active Trans Street Team!
Street Teamers volunteer their time and energy to engage their local community, distribute promotional material and answer questions about Active Trans and upcoming events. Upon successful completion of your Street Team mission, you will receive a complimentary pass to Active Trans’ Four Star Bike & Chow on Sunday, 25th August!
Our upcoming Four Star Bike & Chow is a great opportunity for individuals of all ages and abilities to explore Chicago’s neighborhoods by bike, learn to cycle safely in the city, try some tasty foods, while spending quality time with family, friends, co-workers and the wider community.
To volunteer or learn more about the Street Team, please contact Sharon, at Sharon@activetrans.org
Please indicate the neighborhood or suburban community in which you would like to volunteer. Thank you!
If you want to make Broadway Ave in Uptown better forbiking and walking, then you won’t want to miss 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman’s upcoming public meeting to discuss planned biking and pedestrian improvements to this busy northside corridor.
City transportation officials will review exciting plans to bring enhancements like protected bike lanes that will help calm traffic and make the corridor more people friendly.
What: 46th Ward Complete Streets Community Meeting
When: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Where: Weiss Memorial Hospital, 4646 N Marine Dr, (In the auditorium accessed from the main drive off Marine)
Let us know if you plan on attending – please RSVP here.
Please come out and voice your support for making Broadway safer and better for everyone!
Photo courtesty of Flickr user swanksalot.