Quinn Talks Good Game On Active Transportation, But Does He Deliver?

6.24.13 Governor Quinn and Indiana Governor Mike Pence Open Business Development Forum in Rosemont
Governor Quinn supports active transportation policy in spirit, but his administration has lavished funds on wider roads and the Illiana Tollway. Photo: Governor Quinn

Governor Pat Quinn, who is up for re-election next week, shared warm words about sustainable transportation with the Active Transportation Alliance in response to their candidate questionnaire [PDF]. His words haven’t always been matched by actions from his five-year-old administration — but unlike opponent Bruce Rauner, at least he’s talking to advocates.

Quinn’s written response stated that, between eight options that Active Trans listed to improve the public’s ability to to get around Illinois, “All are priorities for my administration… with the exception of widening existing roads.” He added that Illinois is a “Complete Streets” state, “where we believe in accommodating the transportation needs of all residents.” Indeed, Illinois was the first state to adopt Complete Streets as law, back in 2007.

Yet under Quinn’s administration, the Illinois Department of Transportation has demonstrated that its priorities include widening existing roads, rather than bus rapid transit, congestion pricing, or the other options Active Trans outlined. IDOT has widened dozens of miles of roads throughout the suburbs, and even widened Harrison Street through the South Loop in 2012 — a move that the Chicago Department of Transportation partially reversed this year with a road diet and buffered bike lanes.

Quinn has also championed the expensive and unnecessary Illiana Tollway as his top priority for IDOT, thereby depriving all other priorities of crucial state funding. That’s even as support for the road continues to diminish: although the state has repeatedly claimed that the road is necessary to support truck traffic, major trucking interests have soured on the proposal.

According to Active Trans, IDOT’s own survey “identified Protected Bike Lanes as the most preferred treatment for making roads safer and comfortable for biking,” but the department currently bans cities from installing protected bike lanes on state roads. Quinn pledges that, during his next term, he’ll install 20 miles of PBLs on state roads. He also took credit for IDOT’s newly cooperative stance regarding a curb-separated protected bike lane on state-administered Clybourn Avenue, after an allegedly drunk driver hit and killed Bobby Cann while Cann was bicycling on Clybourn.

Rich guy Bruce Rauner running for Illinois governor
Rauner’s campaign didn’t reply to Active Transportation Alliance’s questionnaire.

IDOT hasn’t been entirely indifferent towards bikes over the past few years, though. After he submitted his responses to Active Trans, the governor announced that IDOT would spend $3 million to expand the Divvy bike-share system further into Chicago’s neighborhoods and beyond the city limits, into Evanston and Oak Park.

Writing about the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive, another IDOT road, Quinn wrote that he would “lead IDOT to support alternative transit improvements to accommodate more travel in the corridor.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner did not respond to Active Trans, consistent with his campaign’s strategy to avoid answering questions on topics for which he has no public record. Active Trans’ Ron Burke said that “we shared our platform and survey with all the gubernatorial candidates. We wish Bruce Rauner had responded.” Libertarian candidate Chad Grimm also did not respond.

  • duppie

    Having been to the IDOT bike plan meeting, I get the distinct impression that IDOT approaches this the way they approach everything else: Build more and build new: More new signs, more beacons, more new asphalt paths, etc.

    Whereas a lot can be done by improving existing roads. A good example is Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Park. For years now the pavement has been horrible on this state owned road, but there never was any attempt to fix it. In my 10 mile daily commute it was *the* worst few blocks. Nothing else comes even close. Only now does there seem to repaving activity going on.

  • duppie

    I find this election to be typical Illinois. While I am ready to give Quinn the boot for many reasons, a lot of them beyond active transportation issues, the alternative does very little to define himself, other than the anti-establishment candidate in very generic terms.

    And so I end up voting again for the Devil I know.

  • hello

    I’m up for adventure. Vote New Devil 2014!

  • Anne A

    Or it can be a decision between the lesser of the evils. Quinn has disappointed in many ways (Illiana being high on that list), but the overall situation could get MUCH worse, if what we’ve seen of Rauner is indicative of his true priorities.

  • Kevin M

    What are Bruce Rauners plans…for anything related to the office he seeks control of? How does a no-plan candidate come this far? I really hope my fellow Illinois citizens are not so dumb as to stick their heads in the sand and vote for this poker-faced joker.

  • Anne A

    New Devil – yeah, that’s exactly how Rauner looks to me.

  • duppie

    Whether you think it will get much worse depends on what your priorities are. I *think* the New Devil might be better in certain areas, and worse in others, but I really don’t know, since he speaks in such generalities that it is hard to figure out how he would actually govern.

    The Devil I know at least has a track record. It is a pretty pathetic track record IMO, but at least I know how he will govern.

  • Paul

    My guess is most people who read this website will vote democratic without any real thought. They don’t mind higher taxes, because they are promised everything. But they end up with nothing.
    Pat Quinn is a complete disaster does that deserve another term. Anyone who votes for him does not care about the state of Illinois in the shade is currently in.

  • Fred

    He’s a single issue candidate: that issue being that he’s not Pat Quinn. Apparently that’s enough for 40+% of the population.

    “Hi, I’m Bruce Rauner and I’m not Pat Quinn. Vote for me!”

  • al_langevin

    The only thing Pat Quinn is interested in is providing employment for union members. He has no transit plan (Metra, RTA, Pace are all a joke) and he could care less about bikes. Rauner sucks too, but he sucks less than Quinn who continues wasting taxpayer money. The Illiana Tollway is an idiotic idea and is clearly another Pat Quinn/Union jobs scam.

  • Fred

    If you could provide links to Rauner’s positions on:
    -transit
    -bikes
    -the Illiana

    it would be greatly appreciated.

  • i <3 keto

    We know he won’t cozy up with public unions, so that’s a good start.

  • i <3 keto

    Lower taxes for everyone. That means more money for your bike…or whatever you want.

  • Jim Mitchell

    I am a life-long Democrat (voted Mondale/Ferraro in ’84 and kept that streak for 30 years now), but I’m leaning toward Rauner because of the reasons others are citing here not to favor Quinn. As a person, Quinn comes across as a nice guy, candid and sincere, and I appreciated his honesty in admitting that higher taxes were necessary to stem the bleeding of public union pensions, but the more I learn about him AS A GOVERNOR, the more I think he’s an ineffective leader and unlikely to create real change. So, maybe I split my vote this year. Rauner is moderate enough on social issues that i won’t feel like too much of a traitor if I did.

  • David Altenburg

    Nice. Can he provide some unicorn farts to give my bike a power assist on windy days as well?

    In seriousness, your statement is false. Rauner actually plans to raise taxes on services (source: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20140717/BLOGS02/140719831/rauner-unveils-plan-to-revamp-illinois-tax-system). As someone who makes a living programming computers, that very well could mean less money for me. That doesn’t mean taxing services is necessarily bad, just that it’s naive to believe anyone can give more money to everyone. If it could be done so easily, it would have been done already. For all Quinn’s faults, I don’t actually think he wants everyone to be broke.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Yeah, I have to kind of agree with David, below. Just lowering taxes won’t necessarily increase your quality of life, especially if you are someone who makes little money and pays little tax to begin with. Better biking infrastructure probably tickles the fancy of most bicyclists.

  • Jim Mitchell

    (That said, I remain agnostic on who to vote for this year for governor.)

  • David Altenburg

    Right. All other things being equal, I’d personally be happy to pay a tax increase for better bike infrastructure. I’d rather have a safer place to ride my bike (and for others to ride) than have a nicer bike. (that’s not the primary thing guiding my vote fwiw. Just what’s relevant to this thread of reasoning.)

  • Quinn isn’t really doing that though either.

    He raised the income tax and still hasn’t legitimate pension reform. We’re still screwed with another tax increase because they’ll squander that money too.

  • We always seem to forget that there are other forms of representation in democracies. Our state representatives and senators should stop any nonsense bills or overrule vetoes if necessary.

  • Anna Schibrowsky

    I asked Rauner about bikes back in December when his campaign first hit Twitter. I think this Conweets link will let you see his campaign’s responses:
    http://www.conweets.com/banoonoo/brucerauner/

  • duppie

    That is exactly how I feel. In office for more than 4 years now he still hasn’t dealt with the pension mess.

    Cullerton and Madigan just treat him like an errand boy. I am looking for a governor that can stand up those two guys.

    But I am not sure Rauner is that guy either. He worked really hard to not define himself clearly beyond being the anti-Quinn.

  • duppie

    Sounds like classic Rauner…

  • Fred

    I absolutely loathe twitter, partially because I find it difficult to follow. If I am reading your link correctly, he blew off your bicycle questions. Is that correct?

  • Fred

    Pension reform goes through Michael Madigan. Rauner won’t have any more success than Quinn did/would. Casting your vote based on that issue alone is misguided.

  • Fred

    Lower taxes for everyone sounds great… unless you are one of the people no longer receiving those funds.

  • duppie

    Sound nice in theory. But living on the Northside, you will be represented by a Democratic machine candidate who takes her orders from Madigan or Cullerton. No independent thinking allowed.

  • Anna Schibrowsky

    I feel that way about Facebook! If you click the little “oldest first” button, I think it’s easier to decipher.

    First his campaign ignored my question. When I asked again, they asked for specifics. When I mentioned pro-bike legislation, they asked for a link to specific bills. When I linked to Active Trans’ “Past legislative successes” list and mentioned specific laws by number, they never replied.

    Worse than just blowing me off, they engaged with me, demanded I provide a bunch of info, and then never gave me an answer.

  • what_eva

    Or for some of us, you will just be represented by Cullerton himself

  • what_eva

    Now he’s apparently jumped on the “Travel bans will solve Ebola!” bandwagon too.

  • BlueFairlane

    Scott Walker certainly didn’t cozy up with public unions, but Wisconsin’s sure building an awful lot of highways.

  • BlueFairlane

    My feeling about this race is that anybody who votes for Rauner on the hope that he’ll fill in the blanks on his platform with policies you’ll like is suffering from a severe bout of wishful thinking, and that it will come back to bite them.

    I feel Quinn is a good guy with good intentions who happens to be an abysmal politician (though I think his support for the Illiana is real. He wants to build that road.) No governor will be able to do anything about pensions until Madigan’s dead or in jail, and Quinn’s certainly not going to be the guy to do it. But neither will Rauner. Rauner will throw out a few patches that will make no difference even if they aren’t shot down. He’ll fill in his philosophical gaps with pro-corporate Libertarian idiocy that, best case, won’t go anywhere. He’ll build the Illiana. And, perhaps worst of all, he’ll stop having his wife talk for him and will address us directly.

    Quinn is a bad governor. Rauner will be worse.

  • High_n_Dry

    Damnit. That sums it up nicely. Many of us “active transpo” people want Quinn to suffer for the Illiana but electing Rauner will make us all suffer even more.

    For those that do doubt his fiscally Conservative values, take a quick look at Kansas and see what can happen. Even though he could never pass such crazy tax laws in Illinois, it is dangerous to allow politicians with those beliefs to “serve” the public.

  • Shut up

    Do you think EITHER guy cares about bikes? You bike people are a minority. Shut up and deAl with it, you big babies!

  • Ben

    People like you are the reason this state is in the mess it is in now. Life-long democrat, and proud of it. You probably belong to a union, too.

  • Jim Mitchell

    Thanks; like I said, I’ve only been thinking about maybe supporting Rauner as the anti-Quinn, but you make excellent points. That plus the following probably seals the deal for me not to vote for Rauner: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20141028/news/141028256/

  • Valid point, but what has Quinn really done to push for pension reform? Has he actually proposed changes to shore up the problem or is the general assembly and governor’s office playing the Congress versus Oval Office game regarding declaring war on ISIS?

    “The President has the authority to ask Congress to declare war….”

    “Congress is the beginning of the process to declare war…..”

    CHICKEN OR THE EGG. Ugh!

  • Fred
  • They also typed in a way that makes them sound like high schoolers, not the official social media arm of a serious grownup politician.

  • Rauner’s policy of having no social agenda is interesting. How wide can “social agenda” expand? Would such an agenda include increasing transit to disparate job centers for low-income earners?

    Does that include funding safe passage street monitors?

  • That is hilarious. Their campaign doesn’t know anything about anything. “What are bicyclists?” is how I read that. I think I know the laws in Illinois better than Bruce.

  • Victor Berger

    Thanks for the 30% proposed cut to high ed. Maybe I can try to ruin your livelihood some day to return the favor. Good job!