How I answered the Riders for Better Transit Survey

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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.

8 thoughts on “How I answered the Riders for Better Transit Survey”

  1. I read the “improving safety” point as being related to criminal activity, rather than the risk of getting injured due to a collision or derailment. Unfortunately, crime on CTA is increasing.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on dissolving the RTA. I’ve lost count of the number of ways they’ve wasted taxpayer dollars.

    1. I think my different interpretation of “improving safety” is based on that I rarely ride the CTA and in the times I’ve ridden it, I’ve never felt “unsafe.”

      I think I phrased it correctly when I say “duplicative efforts.” That doesn’t mean redundant service; it means that there are 2-4 agencies working towards the same goal independently of each other.

      It also means there are 4 human resources departments, 2 bus schedule planning departments, 2 rail operating departments, etc…

  2. I think transit reorganization should probably happen in the following form: Metra, Pace and CTA should be organized into operating agencies in which their chief task is simply to operate their service. Perhaps even CTA Bus and Pace bus should be merged into one operating agency as well. The RTA or whatever parent agency (similar to the MTA) should be in charge of system planning, grants and capital planning, human resources, procurement, labor issues, legal, security, IT, etc. Basically, all of the administrative functions. At the top is one board of directors which oversee the whole thing, with members appointed from around the region and a chairman appointed by the Governor.

    1. I attended a seminar yesterday at the Metropolitan Planning Council about innovative financing for transportation infrastructure. But none of the “creative” or innovative mechanism fund operations, except for PPP in some instances. 

      And the RTA and CTA already have the authority to enter into public-private partnerships. That means they could have a third-party, private company operate a certain bus route. Or something else. Paratransit is essentially a PPP. 

  3. The Red Line extension is an over-priced political football. Parallel service can be used with  mildly-upgraded infrastructure for about $800M less. See the Gray Line proposal by Mike Payne.

  4. p.s. You realize RTAs job is to do what you propose in question 13, right? Why not dissolve the three encumbents and have RTA manage everything directly?

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