[flickr]photo:6168877252[/flickr]Rey Colón, Forrest Claypool and Rahm Emanuel
Yesterday was a busy one for transit-related press events in Chicago. In the morning Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) President Forrest Claypool appeared at the Logan Square Blue Line station, my local stop, to announce their plans to clean and rehab 100 stations within the next year at a cost of $25 million. In the afternoon public transit workers and boosters railed against a Republican proposal to slash more than a third of federal highway and public transportation funding.
I’ve often wondered why the CTA has allowed some of its stations to become so shabby when other systems, like Washington, D.C.’s Metro, have much more appealing facilities. Logan Square was a good example, with crumbling plaster, a dingy, cave-like platform tunnel, and an eternally dripping platform tunnel ceiling. Dismal conditions like these breed discontent from regular customers and discourage potential riders from using transit instead of driving.
Continue reading Emanuel touts “swat team” CTA station renewal; advocates rally against federal cuts to transit
“The subway is the place where denizens of the great metropolis are now forced to face each other. The wealthy, and the poor rub more than elbows here. Often the pot in which we are all supposed to be melting cracks and boils over.” -New York City-based photographer, Dave Beckerman.
Changing trains. Photo by Mike Travis.
Reading a book. Photo by Joshua Koonce.
Playing the guitar and harmonica. Photo by Joshua Koonce.
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?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Increasing the frequency of service. See #1 above.
- Extending the hours of service. I think the hours are mostly pretty good, but the frequency at off-peak hours should be increased.
- Other. I think the way bicycles are stored on trains (both CTA and Metra) should be improved. Read how.
- 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.
- 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.
Updated August 24/27, 2011: Active Transportation Alliance launched the Riders for Better Transit campaign today. Read the full agenda, which talks about different funding sources and modernizing Union Station. Take their survey by Sept. 30 and be entered into a raffle to receive a $100 Visa gift card. Ron Burke and Jennifer Henry (see her statement below) write a letter to the editor about the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority’s toll increase.
The Wilson Red Line CTA station was recently voted the worst station “for the third year in a row” by Chicago RedEye readers. Photo by Jeff Zoline.
In the next couple of days, the Chicago-based (but Chicagoland-focused) advocacy organization, Active Transportation Alliance, will launch a new permanent campaign called Riders For Better Transit. This is the Alliance’s first large-scale endeavor into improving transit since they changed their name and mission in late 2008 from focusing solely on bicycling. Their other transit advocacy includes supporting transit-friendly legislation in Springfield.
I sat down with Lee Crandell, Director of Campaigns, at his office (9 W Hubbard) on August 1, 2011, to learn more about this effort.
Continue reading Transit riders to gain a louder voice in new campaign
[flickr]photo:6052421155[/flickr] [All photos courtesy of the Chicago Department of Transportation, except where noted.]
Last Tuesday evening when I first pedaled down the new Madison Street bike lane, crisp white lines on fresh, smooth asphalt, my initial emotion was exhilaration. Just like the first time I rode the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, I was experiencing something that had never been done before in Chicago, and it was a liberating sensation.
For years I’ve wished the city would stripe bike lanes within the central Loop, defined by the Chicago River, Michigan Avenue and the Congress Parkway, but until now this seemed verboten. The taboo against downtown lanes has always struck me as typical of the conservative way the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) did bike improvements under Mayor Daley. The attitude seemed to be that the Central Business District (CBD) was too congested to have bike lanes, when in reality the Loop is too congested NOT to have lanes encouraging people to bicycle instead of driving.
So I was thrilled last week when Steven forwarded a newsletter from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly announcing that CDOT was striping lanes on Madison from Michigan to Wells. But I confess that a couple blocks into my maiden voyage down the new lane I became a little disappointed. I realized that many cyclists will not feel comfortable riding in the lane because it is marked to the left of a bus-only lane. This means cyclists will be pedaling between two lanes of moving traffic with no protection except paint on the road.
Continue reading Mixed feelings about Chicago’s first Loop bike lane