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

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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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Grid Bits: Red Line south closure, Bombardier trains under construction, universal fare card

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Photo of a Metra train by Sam Dickey

There are 5 stories from 8 sources in this edition of Grid Bits, all about transit.

CTA Red Line south track renewal project

The Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line south project to shut down 9 Red Line stations (Cermak-Chinatown to 95th) for five months in 2013 to replace 100% of track is generating uninformed controversy. The CTA will be holding at least 5 meetings across the south side to meet one-on-one with neighbors and community groups. The first meeting was Monday; the second meeting is tonight.

Coverage and commentary of the Red Line south project:

The CTA has posted an extremely detailed webpage dedicated to informing people about the project’s goals, alternative service, and why it chose to avoid a 4-year-long weekend-only shutdown to complete the same work.

Continue reading Grid Bits: Red Line south closure, Bombardier trains under construction, universal fare card

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CTA announces open fare system to come in 2014

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If the backside of your Chase Bank credit/debit card has the “blink” text and logo, you’ll be ready for Open Fare.

Soon you’ll be able to pay for a trip on Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses and trains with your credit/debit card (provided it has an embedded wireless chip) and NFC-enabled cellphones. Currently all four credit card processors (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover) offer cards with contactless chips – they use RFID technology. The Samsung Nexus S is the only widely available cellphone with an NFC chip. This is all part of an upcoming system called Open Fare. It’s not the same as the regional fare payment system that Pace, Metra, and the CTA are legislated to provide by 2015 (where one fare payment method works on any transit vehicle, often called “universal fare”*). Continue reading CTA announces open fare system to come in 2014

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