Moving beyond the shock of CTA fare increases to doing something about it

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Drive? Drive! Photo by Dan O’Neill. 

I’m not going to try to make sense of the pending Chicago Transit Authority fare increases, why they’re necessary, or of Rahm’s insensitive remarks on Monday that he clarified yesterday. There are already great responses on these matters:

You will have to figure out for yourself if it’s still worth it to buy single or multi-day passes. Need a primer on what’s proposed to change? Check out the CTA’s FAQ (.pdf). The fare increases will be voted on by the CTA board on December 18, 2012, at 2:30 PM, and the increases would take effect January 14, 2013.

I’m going to try and inspire you to take action and give you some tools that may help lessen the impact on your household’s finances. Here are 12 ideas.

1. Illinois legislators control the CTA so you have to tell them how you feel about fare increases and transportation subsidy policies. They decide how much financial assistance transit agencies will get. Tell them which way you tend to vote. You can find their contact info on the Riders for Better Transit website.

2. There are pre-tax benefits available at supportive workplaces. Money is removed from your paycheck to purchase a cash transit card or a monthly pass before taxes are calculated. You can save hundreds of dollars per year. This applies to Metra and Pace riders, too. You cannot get this benefit individually: your employer most offer it. If they don’t, give your boss or HR manager this information. Learn more at LessTaxingCommute.com.

If you get pushback, educate your coworkers or contact Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Riders for Better Transit to see if they can help you reach out to company executives.

3. The mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois appoint four and three members to the CTA board, respectively. Direct your attention to those two.

4. The budget recommendations for the following budget year (2013) are created by CTA president Forrest Claypool and his staff and then presented to the appointed board members for their approval. If I kept better track of the board’s activity I could tell you if they’ve ever told the CTA president to revise the budget recommendations. You can speak to the board at two public meetings in December: Continue reading Moving beyond the shock of CTA fare increases to doing something about it

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CTA will reveal more detailed plans about Western/Ashland bus-only lanes today

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The CTA is proposing 4 “design alternatives”, seen here. Some remove left-turn lanes, and some remove all or a portion of parking. Two run buses in center lane (faster for buses), and two run buses in a curbside and parking-side lane (potentially much slower for buses). 

In a series of three open house meetings, the first tonight, the Chicago Transit Authority will reveal the most detailed plans to date about bus rapid transit (BRT; with dedicated bus lanes) on Western and Ashland Avenues. Open house is a meeting style where attendees can freely view the information on large posters and discuss questions and concerns directly with CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation staff.

The CTA updated its website on Tuesday to add well-detailed and depicted information about the 4 different design alternatives proposed (how the the bus system would be configured).

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A rendering created by Booth Hansen and Metropolitan Planning Council that shows what could be possible on Western Avenue (at Chicago Avenue; the building in the left background doesn’t exist). View more photos and renderings

Next week John will be publishing an update on the city’s CTA’s BRT initiatives based on an interview with BRT manager Chris Ziemann and info from one of this week’s open houses. The meeting details follow (and are available on our calendar):

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 PM
Iglesia Rebano Church
2435 W Division Street

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 PM
Lindblom Math and Science Academy
6130 S Wolcott Avenue

Thursday, October 18, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 PM
Lane Tech College Prep High School
2501 W Addison Street

Catch up on the project by reading our past coverage, or the Chicago Tribune’s preview article from Monday:

The two streets also connect with most CTA rail lines, cross multiple Metra rail lines and many residents who do not own cars live nearby, according to demographic data. BRT service is viewed by transit planners as potentially strengthening non-downtown north-south transit connections.

Riders for Better Transit, a campaign of the Active Transportation Alliance, posted a transit and BRT infographic last week detailing current statistics about transit usage in Chicago and comparing ridership figures between existing lines and the potential impact dedicated bus lanes on Western and Ashland would have. They are asking people to ask for center bus lanes (with center loading median), a single car lane in each direction, curbside car parking, and wide sidewalks. It’s not clear what other street configurations are possible, nor the feasibility of including a bikeway in the cross section (which has been asked about in the comments section on Active Transportation Alliance’s blog and in a conversation on Twitter with @stevevance).

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The infographic; view full size.

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Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues

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Active Trans staffer Lee Crandell talks to Enrique Rico. The three poster boards are displayed at the bottom. 

Riders for Better Transit is reaching out to bus riders across the city to inform them about plans to build better bus service on Western Avenue or Ashland Avenue (or both?). They visited six bus stops last week with informational posters. Lee Crandell, campaigns director for Active Transportation Alliance, was staffing the exhibit at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue in Pilsen when I visited last Wednesday. One goal of the outreach, Crandell said, was to “make a public meeting in the street for those who couldn’t attend” the static meetings.

When I arrived, Enrique Rico was waiting for the northbound Ashland 9 bus. I noticed the next bus was coming so I tried to ask Rico a quick question before leaving, starting with if he had heard of BRT (bus rapid transit) before now. He said he hadn’t, but Crandell informed me that Rico had told him earlier he was familiar with the enhanced bus services in Mexico City. The Metropolitan Planning Council, a major sponsor of this traveling exhibit, had sent a few of its staff members to Mexico City to explore the 4 line Metrobús system that opened in 2005. Continue reading Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues

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Grid Bits: Pace increases bus frequency on Stevenson and other transit news

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The Morgan Street Green/Pink Line station will be open in May, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation. This photo was taken April 2, 2012, by Jeff Zoline, a frequent photo contributor.

There are 8 transit stories in this post (1 for Pace, 2 for Metra, 4 for CTA, and one story about how transit users save money because they’re not driving to work). Hat tips to CTA Tattler and Riders for Better Transit for keeping up with transit news in Chicagoland.

1. Pace yesterday began putting more buses on routes 755 and 855, both of which can drive on the shoulders of I-55/Stevenson Expressway during rush hour periods when traffic is moving slower than 35 MPH. They’re doing this because of increased demand for a route that’s seen its reliability improved and travel time decreased. There’s no word yet on the status of running buses on the shoulder of I-90/Jane Addams Memorial Tollway.

2. People who take transit to work instead of driving save $1,006 per month because of the cost of gas, insurance, parking, and other expenses. This is actually just a monthly calculation the American Public Transport Association releases. See the savings in the top 20 cities on the APTA’s website (via Chicago Sun-Times). Continue reading Grid Bits: Pace increases bus frequency on Stevenson and other transit news

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ATA calls for bill to boost transit funds by indexing the gas tax to inflation

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Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke at this morning’s event in Pritzker Park. Participants are holding Riders for Better Transit signs.

This morning Active Transportation Alliance held a press conference to announce that the advocacy group and its partners are introducing legislation in Springfield that would raise the state gas tax and index it to inflation. Under this initiative, called Transit Fast Forward, the tax hike would apply only in the six-county Chicago region, and the extra revenue would be used solely to increase funding to the CTA, Metra and Pace.

The new legislation, Senate Bill 3236, is sponsored by State Senator Martin Sandoval, a Democrat from Chicago. Active Trans estimates the hike in state gas taxes in Chicagoland would only be .4 cents per gallon in 2013, costing an average family an extra $4 for the year. But the result would be an estimated $11.6 million in new transit funding next year, and a whopping $168 million increase in funds over the next five years. Continue reading ATA calls for bill to boost transit funds by indexing the gas tax to inflation

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House transportation bill: What’s at stake for Chicago

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A broken down 4400-series bus on Clark Street in 2007. Steven remembers that these buses seemed to break down more often than other models, and their retrofitted wheelchair lifts were slow and difficult to use. Imagine if they couldn’t be replaced when they needed to be. Photo by Sabrina Downard. 

Ed. note: This is a post by guest contributor Brian Morrissey, of Commuter Age – or is that Commute Rage? – a blog covering the economic and social issues of transportation. It was originally written for Taking the Lane, a blog about “bicycling, economics, feminism, and other cultural commentary” by Elly Blue. -SV

First, the latest on the surface transportation bill from the House of Representatives we’ve been discussing so frequently in the past two weeks (known as HR7):

  • Speaker John Boehner doesn’t have the votes, delays until after President’s Day (Politico)
  • What the House transportation bill means for the Bay Area (SF Streetsblog)
  • Obama takes a stand, threatens veto (DC Streetsblog)
  • Reps. Lipinski and Dold joined CTA and Metra officials to call on the GOP to fix HR7 (WGN-TV)
  • Wed., Feb. 29, is the first ever Riders for Better Transit Day of Action (see end of post)

Continue reading House transportation bill: What’s at stake for Chicago

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