Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement


The Illinois Department of Transportation is ready to build many more lanes and flyovers at the Circle Interchange, shown here in a postcard from 1963. Posted by Brandon Bartoszek. 

Because of vehicles with higher fuel efficiency, slightly less driving, and the gas tax not being changed since 1993, the motor vehicle fuel tax, or “gas tax”, has failed to pay for everything that Congress has legislated that it should pay for. The Highway Trust Fund, which includes the Mass Transit Account, has received several infusions of money from the “general revenue fund” – to the tune of over $60 billion.

But a new report from the Government Accountability Office, the congressional think tank focused on financing, past, present, and future, has made the country take a giant step forward in considering a switch to a fee that more accurately charges usage. The report, like all GAO studies, was commissioned by the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee*.

The gas tax charges drivers based on their use of petroleum, different vehicles can go different distances on the same amount of petroleum: essentially, some pay less than others for the same use of the road. Addiitionally, the counts of how much people drive has decreased (called vehicle miles traveled, or VMT), yet our demand for funds to maintain and build new infrastructure outpaces the incoming revenues from the gas tax. Lastly, the federal gas tax hasn’t changed at all, sticking to a cool 18.4 cents per gallon (for non-diesel drivers) since 1993. “While the gas tax was equal to 17 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas when it was set at its current level in 1993, it is now only 5 percent” (Streetsblog).

Continue reading Charging by the mile, a gas tax alternative, sees serious movement

CTA will reveal more detailed plans about Western/Ashland bus-only lanes today


The CTA is proposing 4 “design alternatives”, seen here. Some remove left-turn lanes, and some remove all or a portion of parking. Two run buses in center lane (faster for buses), and two run buses in a curbside and parking-side lane (potentially much slower for buses). 

In a series of three open house meetings, the first tonight, the Chicago Transit Authority will reveal the most detailed plans to date about bus rapid transit (BRT; with dedicated bus lanes) on Western and Ashland Avenues. Open house is a meeting style where attendees can freely view the information on large posters and discuss questions and concerns directly with CTA and Chicago Department of Transportation staff.

The CTA updated its website on Tuesday to add well-detailed and depicted information about the 4 different design alternatives proposed (how the the bus system would be configured).


A rendering created by Booth Hansen and Metropolitan Planning Council that shows what could be possible on Western Avenue (at Chicago Avenue; the building in the left background doesn’t exist). View more photos and renderings

Next week John will be publishing an update on the city’s CTA’s BRT initiatives based on an interview with BRT manager Chris Ziemann and info from one of this week’s open houses. The meeting details follow (and are available on our calendar):

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 PM
Iglesia Rebano Church
2435 W Division Street

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 PM
Lindblom Math and Science Academy
6130 S Wolcott Avenue

Thursday, October 18, 2012
5:30 to 7:30 PM
Lane Tech College Prep High School
2501 W Addison Street

Catch up on the project by reading our past coverage, or the Chicago Tribune’s preview article from Monday:

The two streets also connect with most CTA rail lines, cross multiple Metra rail lines and many residents who do not own cars live nearby, according to demographic data. BRT service is viewed by transit planners as potentially strengthening non-downtown north-south transit connections.

Riders for Better Transit, a campaign of the Active Transportation Alliance, posted a transit and BRT infographic last week detailing current statistics about transit usage in Chicago and comparing ridership figures between existing lines and the potential impact dedicated bus lanes on Western and Ashland would have. They are asking people to ask for center bus lanes (with center loading median), a single car lane in each direction, curbside car parking, and wide sidewalks. It’s not clear what other street configurations are possible, nor the feasibility of including a bikeway in the cross section (which has been asked about in the comments section on Active Transportation Alliance’s blog and in a conversation on Twitter with @stevevance).


The infographic; view full size.

Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues


Active Trans staffer Lee Crandell talks to Enrique Rico. The three poster boards are displayed at the bottom. 

Riders for Better Transit is reaching out to bus riders across the city to inform them about plans to build better bus service on Western Avenue or Ashland Avenue (or both?). They visited six bus stops last week with informational posters. Lee Crandell, campaigns director for Active Transportation Alliance, was staffing the exhibit at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue in Pilsen when I visited last Wednesday. One goal of the outreach, Crandell said, was to “make a public meeting in the street for those who couldn’t attend” the static meetings.

When I arrived, Enrique Rico was waiting for the northbound Ashland 9 bus. I noticed the next bus was coming so I tried to ask Rico a quick question before leaving, starting with if he had heard of BRT (bus rapid transit) before now. He said he hadn’t, but Crandell informed me that Rico had told him earlier he was familiar with the enhanced bus services in Mexico City. The Metropolitan Planning Council, a major sponsor of this traveling exhibit, had sent a few of its staff members to Mexico City to explore the 4 line Metrobús system that opened in 2005. Continue reading Making bus transit a priority on Western and Ashland Avenues