Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement


The Illinois Department of Transportation is ready to build many more lanes and flyovers at the Circle Interchange, shown here in a postcard from 1963. Posted by Brandon Bartoszek. 

Because of vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, slightly less driving, and the gas tax not being changed since 1993, the motor vehicle fuel tax, or “gas tax”, has failed to pay for everything that Congress has legislated that it should pay for. The Highway Trust Fund, which includes the Mass Transit Account, has received several infusions of money from the “general revenue fund” – to the tune of over $60 billion.

But a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the congressional think tank focused on financing, past, present, and future, has made the country take a giant step forward in considering a switch to a fee that more accurately charges usage. The report, like all GAO studies, was commissioned by the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee*.

The gas tax charges drivers based on their use of petroleum, different vehicles can go different distances on the same amount of petroleum: essentially, some pay less than others for the same use of the road. Addiitionally, the counts of how much people drive has decreased (called vehicle miles traveled, or VMT), yet our demand for funds to maintain and build new infrastructure outpaces the incoming revenues from the gas tax. Lastly, the federal gas tax hasn’t changed at all, sticking to a cool 18.4 cents per gallon (for non-diesel drivers) since 1993. “While the gas tax was equal to 17 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas when it was set at its current level in 1993, it is now only 5 percent” (Streetsblog).

Continue reading Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement

Renovated Morse and Thorndale ‘L’ stations have new bike parking


Morse’s new bike parking area. Photo by Justin Haugens. 

The Chicago Transit Authority’s Morse Red Line station in Rogers Park, recently renovated, now has 45-108 new bike parking spaces (on what looks like 9 racks); the capacity depends on how people lock up their bikes. The bike rack type is called the “campus rack” and “hangers” are what you lean a bike against and lock to. The bike parking area is partially sheltered, has some lighting, is visible from multiple streets, and very close to a station entrance. The area is in the site of what used to be a retail space at approximately 1400 W Lunt Ave, at Greenwood Ave on the west side of the ‘L’ viaduct.


Morse’s new bike parking area. Photo by Justin Haugens. 


Thorndale’s new bike parking area. Photo by Rudy Luciani. 

The Thorndale Red Line station received the same racks with an identical capacity. According to an email conversation I had with a CTA staffer and a staffer in 49th ward Alderman Joe Moore’s office, the area will be fenced with “two (2) 10′ openings exiting the bike lot to the north (sidewalk) and east (alley)”; these will not be gated entrances. A DIY bike repair stand, the seventh in Chicago (all installed in 2012), was also installed. The bike parking area is on the south side of Thorndale, across the street from the station entrance, in what used to be a car parking lot.


Thorndale’s DIY bike repair stand. Photo by Rudy Luciani. 

I am awaiting funding cost and source information from the CTA.

Red all over: the 95th Street station rehab and other delights


Double-decker bike racks were added to the 95th Street station earlier this year.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

After sprinting east down Fullerton Avenue on my bicycle, I make it to the turnstiles of the eponymous Red Line stop just before the 4 p.m. bike-and-ride cutoff. As I relax on board with my wheels, the train passes through the Near North Side, the Loop and the Near South Side, then decreases in speed as we pass through slow zones, sometimes decelerating to walking pace. In all, the 15-mile rail trip takes 45 minutes, with an average speed of only 20 MPH.

When we reach the end of the line at 95th Street, the roar of traffic assaults my ears, since the platform sits in the median of the Dan Ryan Expressway. I’m on my way to a CTA open house at the Palmer Park fieldhouse to learn about the 95th Street Terminal Improvement Project. It’s estimated to cost $240 million in federal, state and CTA funds, about half the total bill for Millennium Park. The formal design process is slated for later this year, with construction in late 2014, after the Red Line South Track Renewal Project is completed.

Continue reading Red all over: the 95th Street station rehab and other delights

Would residents of northeastern Illinois tax themselves for transit?


Mayor Emanuel shaking hands at the 95th Street station, the current terminal on the Red Line Dan Ryan branch. Photo by slow911.

Rahm Emanuel said he would help the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) find whatever money possible to fund an extension of the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch to 130th Street. That project will have four new stations (view map); the construction will most likely be majority paid for by the federal  government (the capital costs). But the federal government won’t pay for the CTA’s new costs from operating the extension. Or any operating costs (note 1). The CTA and Mayor Emanuel are also pursuing bus rapid transit (BRT), a faster moving bus route. Continue reading Would residents of northeastern Illinois tax themselves for transit?