What is regional transit? RTA undertaking its own strategic plan update process


It’s rare to see CTA and Metra signs in the same place. The LaSalle Intermodal Transfer Center at LaSalle Street and Congress Parkway is a great step in making transit work “regionally”: it connects Rock Island District trains and multiple bus routes. It provides weak signage directing riders to the Jackson Blue Line station one block away. Photo by Anne Alt. 

“The Regional Transportation Authority values input of how to better the regional transit system. The RTA is conducting a survey to help gather ideas to inform the strategic planning process.” This quote is from its website promoting the process.

In August we published an article from two guest contributors about Metra and its own strategic plan update process. One critique was that Metra was doing this independently of the other “service boards” (Chicago Transit Authority and Pace) and its parent organization, RTA. You can provide your input on their strategic planning process with an online survey through January 25, 2013.

I reached out to RTA to understand why, again, there is an organization doing this planning process alone.

In a nutshell, there are separate (coordinated, not independent) strategic planning processes that are undertaken by the individual agencies because transit aims to strike a balance between addressing long-term, regional concerns and more near-term, local needs.

The scope of Service Board strategic planning initiatives usually encompasses operating and service provision issues—issues for which the service boards are experts. For example, this might include developing or revising service planning standards—at what level of demand should we increase service or build an infill station? Does the agency have enough reliable vehicles in its fleet to provide the desired levels of service envisioned for the next 2-3 years? These are the nature of issues for which the service boards have the most experience and local knowledge by which to develop plans and policies.

Continue reading What is regional transit? RTA undertaking its own strategic plan update process

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Metra seeks public input to develop first strategic plan in decades


A Rock Island Metra train heading towards Blue Island across 95th Street in Chicago. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

From a Metra news release:

Furthering its goal of soliciting input and engaging in dialogue with its major stakeholders, Metra is asking its riders, the public, elected officials and others for their help as it begins to craft its first strategic plan in several decades. You can offer input by coming out to one of our public open house forums [calendar below] throughout the region. You can also provide input by completing a short survey actively available here from 7/2/12 until 8/10/12.

All meeting materials are on the Strategic Plan webpage.

Tuesday, July 10, 4 PM – 7 PM
Board Room, 13th Floor
547 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60661 Continue reading Metra seeks public input to develop first strategic plan in decades

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How I answered the Riders for Better Transit Survey


A Chicago Transit Authority bus in 1968 on Irving Park Road. The bus has since been replaced. 

Would you like to see transit in our region improved? Help us win transit improvements that matter to riders. Please tell us what issues are most important to you. Take the Active Transportation Alliance survey by October 5 and be entered in a raffle for a $100 Visa gift card.

For question 9, “Please *rank* the following transit priorities in order of importance,” I ranked them in the following order:

  1. Speeding up transit travel. I think this, along with frequent service, are the best two ways to increase ridership. People don’t want to wait for the bus or train to come, and they don’t want to be on that bus or train for long. To speed up buses, there’s one strategy we can implement that will have the highest effect: reduce the number of non-bus vehicles on the road, starting with what we have the most of, singly occupied automobiles.
  2. Adding new transit routes. If this means installing bus rapid transit (BRT), or some semblance of that, I want it. I also think the Red Line to 130th Street is a good idea. I also like Metra’s plan for the STAR Line.
  3. Increasing the frequency of service. See #1 above.
  4. Extending the hours of service. I think the hours are mostly pretty good, but the frequency at off-peak hours should be increased.
  5. Other. I think the way bicycles are stored on trains (both CTA and Metra) should be improved. Read how.
  6. Keeping fares low. I think they’re pretty low to begin with. I’d like the Chicago Card/Plus bonus to come back. I think this will encourage more adoption of the stored-value RFID cards and that adoption will stick around when universal fare and media system comes around in 2015. Metra fares seem high, though.
  7. Improving safety. Isn’t the CTA pretty safe? You’re definitely safer riding a bus or train than bicycling, walking, or driving/riding in an automobile.

For question 12, “Please tell us about the most pleasant or helpful experience you’ve had while riding public transportation.”, I answered,

When it starts raining or when my bicycle cannot be ridden, I always appreciate being able to take it on a CTA bus or train to the bike shop or to home.

For question 13, “If you had one message for your transit agency or elected officials for public transportation in Chicagoland, what would it be?”, I submitted,

Dissolve the RTA and create a new agency that replaces all three service boards.

With a single agency managing all transit in Chicagoland, duplicative efforts would be (theoretically) eliminated. For examples to follow, see Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York (MTA). They operate buses and trains (both rapid transit and regional rail) in 12 counties in New York (including all 5 boroughs) and two counties in Connecticut, as well as seven toll bridges and two tunnels.

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