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


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

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

New transportation bill passes: Would an extension of previous bill have been better?


A Metra train passes over a busy portion of the Kennedy Expressway. Photo taken from Grand Avenue. 

The Senate and House of Representatives finished their conference on Friday, June 29, to finalize the new surface transportation bill. The bill is responsible for making it legal for the federal government to collect gas taxes and manage the Highway Trust Fund and its Mass Transit Account, disbursing revenues to road, transit, railroad, water, bicycling, and pedestrian transportation infrastructure projects. The previous bill, known as SAFETEA-LU, was extended for 1,000 days since its original expiration in 2009. The new bill is known as MAP-21 and will expire September 30, 2014, for a total duration of 27 months. President Obama is expected to sign the bill, H.R. 4348, on Friday.

There are many changes, good and bad, between the two bills that have transit, bicycling, and pedestrian advocates disappointed. Continue reading New transportation bill passes: Would an extension of previous bill have been better?

How LaSalle Street Metra station maintains hard-to-find reputation


A new intermodal link at Congress Parkway and Financial Place, leading passengers up to Metra platforms, as viewed from the northwest.

If there were a contest for “best hidden train station in the Loop,” the dubious winner would be Metra’s LaSalle Street station. Have you ever tried and failed to find this station, or had to give extremely detailed directions to help someone else find it? If your answer is “yes,” you’ve got lots of company.

So why is it such a mystery?

Much of the signage directing “potential” passengers is small, placed in mid-block locations far out of visual range from adjacent intersections, and doesn’t follow the design standards of Metra signs. The station itself is tucked and hidden behind the Chicago Board Options Exchange; the platforms are also above ground with a single point of entry. This aerial view gives you a point of reference. Continue reading How LaSalle Street Metra station maintains hard-to-find reputation

Transportation bill update for March 2nd, 2012


Photos by Jane Healy. 

Update March 5, 2012: Cloture vote is Tuesday, March 6th, via Smart Growth America

Republican leadership in the House has essentially admitted that their multi-year surface transportation bill needs to be reworked. Read all our past coverage on it. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, our region’s metropolitan planning organization, is doing a great job keeping up with this on their blog and in their weekly newsletter. From today’s newsletter:

Transportation reauthorization update. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives discussed replacing their initial 5-year reauthorization bill, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act (AEIJA), with a reduced 18-month program.

This proposal would fund federal transportation programs through mid-2013, and would reconnect mass transit funding to the Highway Trust Fund. Also this week, the U.S. Senate failed to advance one of the non-germane amendments that have been attached to Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century [MAP-21, the Senate’s version of a surface transportation bill]), the two-year reauthorization bill. Senate Majority Leader Reid announced that he intends to file cloture on the substitute amendment to MAP-21 [cloture requires 60 votes to pass – the Democratic caucus controls only 53 seats]. The vote is scheduled for March 6.

Read more on their Policy Updates blog.

What else is happening? The Senate has included the Cardin-Cochrane amendment that gives metro areas control over bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure spending.


The House of Representatives cannot get away with passing a bill that leaves us empty train tracks. 

House transportation bill: What’s at stake for Chicago


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

These three Illinois representatives will thankfully oppose the disastrous transportation bill


Transit and highway, side-by-side, along the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. The current and proposed funding situations are insufficient for both, as the gas tax is a flat rate that hasn’t changed since 1993. Photo by Eric Rogers.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reporting on a transportation bill in the House of Representatives that kills funding for transit (which millions of people across the country depend on to get to work) and bicycle and walking infrastructure. There’s evidence that the bill may die on the House floor next week, thanks in part to three Illinois representatives who are voicing their opposition:

Congressmen who represent Chicago’s suburbs finally are weighing in on that transportation bill that’s due to hit the House floor next week, and they don’t like what they see.

In a flurry of statements after several days of quiet review, U.S. Reps. Robert Dold [10th district], Judy Biggert [13th district] and Adam Kinzinger [11th district] — all Republicans — flatly say or strongly suggest that they cannot support the bill drafted by House GOP leadership. From

Continue reading These three Illinois representatives will thankfully oppose the disastrous transportation bill