Skip to content

-

Posts from the Bus Transit Category

1 Comment

Man Dies After CTA Bus-Pedestrian Crash in Canaryville

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 10.34.09 AM

The crash site. Image: Google Street View

A 62-year-old man has died after being fatally struck by a CTA bus driver in the Canaryville neighborhood.

On Monday evening at 9:06 p.m., the man “tripped and fell into the intersection” at 43rd and Halsted streets, according to Officer Stacey Cooper from Police News Affairs. He was then struck by the driver of a northbound CTA bus, Cooper said.

The victim was transported to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Cooper said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office identified the man as Erroll Ellison, from the 4200 block of South Princeton Avenue.

Fatality Tracker: 2015 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 13 (4 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 2 (both were hit-and-run crashes)

6 Comments

Here’s How New CTA Technology Helps Reduce Bus Bunching

Demonstrating CTA's new bus bunching-fighting technology

Mike Haynes demonstrates sending an instructional message to a CTA bus driver using the new Bus Transit Management System.

If you ride Chicago Transit Authority buses, you’ve probably had the infuriating experience of waiting an eternity at a stop, only to have two or more buses show up at the same time. This phenomenon, known as bus bunching, is the bane of most big-city transit systems in the U.S.

To address this issue, the CTA is rolling out a new two-way bus communication system, and it’s already helping to reduce bunching on a handful of routes that have received the technology. The Bus Transit Management System, created by Clever Devices, the company that makes the CTA’s Bus Tracker system, pairs an on-board device with new software at the transit agency’s control center.

The software gives supervisors a heads-up when two buses are closer or further apart than they should be, and provides more information to help determine the best way to close the gap. If the supervisor wants more info from the bus driver – why they’re behind schedule, for example – at the next stop, he or she can send a series of text messages that require “yes” or “no” responses from the driver. The text messages appear on a device installed at the top left corner of the bus’ windshield.

Without the system, supervisors would continue having to drive around in their SUVs to see what’s happening and then intervene by catching up to a bus driver and giving them instructions.

At a demonstration of the system on Monday at the agency’s headquarters, CTA president Forrest Claypool said the technology is already making a difference in Chicago. Nine of the busiest South Side bus routes, based out of the 77th and 103rd Street garages, have seen a 40 percent reduction in “big gaps” between January and March. The agency defines big gaps as larger-than-scheduled periods of time between buses.

The new system gives supervisors several options for improving bus timing from the control center, according to CTA spokeswoman, Tammy Chase. The supervisor can order a driver to:

  • Hold the bus back by waiting at a stop
  • Run the bus express for a few stops
  • Leapfrog a leading bus
  • Temporarily follow a new route

“In some cases, an extra bus can be put into service to fill a big gap,” Chase said. “The software allows us to identify small issues before they become big ones.”

However, there’s a limit to how effective this technology can be for fighting delays on typical CTA routes that lack dedicated bus lanes and have stops every eighth of a mile. “As traffic rises, even small, random events like a double-parked car can cause buses to lose time,” DePaul transportation researcher Joseph Schwieterman told the Tribune. “That makes fixing the problem more difficult and it will test the limits of the technology.”

Read more…

15 Comments

New Type of TIF District Would Increase Funding for Transit Projects

Ravenswood Connector Work Weekend #3

Transit TIFs in Chicago would send a majority of revenue to specific transit improvement projects. Photo: CTA

A new bill that passed the Illinois Senate last week would create a new class of tax increment financing district that could only be created around Chicago transit stations and lines to capture the property value that being near transit generates. Most of the revenue generated by these TIFs would be earmarked to pay for construction of rapid transit lines, stations, and other transit-related facilities.

In case you’re not a follower of Ben Joravsky’s TIF-centric column in the Chicago Reader, a Chicago TIF district is a designated area in which the amount of property tax revenue that goes to taxing bodies like Cook County, the Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Park District is capped when the district is created. Any additional tax revenue from rising property values can only be spent in that area. Chicago TIF money is currently often used to provide a local match to win federal grants for transportation projects.

The new state law, which would only apply to Chicago, would allow City Council to create transit TIFs district that would include the area within a half-mile of the following projects:

The Chicago region spends less money on building and running transit than its U.S. peer cities, and gas tax revenue has been a declining source of funding for transit infrastructure. The Illinois gas tax has been stuck at 19 cents per gallon since 1990 so, due to inflation, the buying power of the revenue it generates has dropped in recent decades. This revenue source is also impacted as cars become more fuel-efficient and driving rates fluctuate.

Read more…

18 Comments

Welcome Back Carter: New Transit Chief Has CTA, USDOT Experience

Untitled

Carter at yesterday’s press event at the 74th Street bus garage. Photo: John Greenfield

Several of the last few Chicago Transit Authority presidents have had little or no background running a public transportation agency. However, Mayor Emanuel’s new pick to run the agency, Dorval R. Carter, Jr. has over 30 years of experience in transit at the city and federal levels.

In 2009, he spent a few months as an acting CTA president, and recently, he has served as an assistant to progressive U.S. Department of Transportation heads Ray LaHood and Anthony Foxx. He’ll start the job on May 18, and will be the first African-American CTA president in the agency’s 68-year history.

Carter, who has a law degree from Howard University, started working at the CTA in 1984 as a staff attorney. Next, he worked as a lawyer for the Federal Transportation Administrations’ Midwestern regional office. After that, he worked in Washington, D.C. as the FTA’s Assistant Chief Council for Legislation and Regulation.

Carter returned to the CTA in 2000, eventually becoming Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, managing the $1 billion operating budget and five-year capital improvement program. After then-CTA president Ron Huberman stepped down in January 2009 to lead the Chicago Public Schools, Carter served as acting president for four months.

When President Obama appointed LaHood to lead the USDOT that year, LaHood brought Carter back to Washington. Most recently, Carter served as Acting Chief of Staff to current USDOT secretary Foxx, who endorsed him for the new CTA job. “He possesses the experience and passion for transit that will make him highly effective,” Foxx said in a statement. “Mayor Emanuel has made an excellent choice.”

Read more…

4 Comments

Claypool’s Tenure at the CTA Has Been Action-Packed

IMG_8569

Claypool speaks at the reopening of the South Red Line in October 2013. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool has worn many hats in local government. He twice served as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff. He was superintendent of the Chicago Park District. And he’s been a Cook County commissioner. But, arguably, he’s made his biggest mark as head of the transit agency during the last four project-filled years.

Last Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he’s pulling Claypool from the CTA to serve a third stint as the mayor’s chief of staff, replacing Lisa Schrader. It appears Emanuel feels Claypool, a longtime ally with records of balancing budgets at the park district and the transit agency, will be helpful for tackling the city’s $20 billion pension crisis. Emanuel cited Claypool’s successful overhaul of the South Red Line as a reason for his decision.

The mayor has not yet named the next CTA boss. Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, who previously served as director of planning for the transit agency, seems like a possibility. On the other hand, Claypool and the previous few CTA presidents have been expert managers, rather than transportation specialists, and moving Scheinfeld back to the CTA would require Emanuel to find a new CDOT chief. While we wait for the mayor to announce his choice, let’s take a look back at some of the highs, and a few lows, of Claypool’s tenure since he started the transit job in spring of 2011.

The Claypool era has been marked by a host of infrastructure improvements, including a number of shiny, new ‘L’ stops and station reconstruction projects that were completed or launched under his watch. In April 2012, the roughly $20 million Oakton-Skokie Yellow Line stop opened. This was followed in May by the attractive, $38 million Morgan/Lake station, which serves the Green and Pink Lines, a project spearheaded by CDOT. That fall, the agency held community meetings for the $240 million overhaul of the Red Line’s 95th/Dan Ryan stop, which began construction in fall of 2014 and is slated for completion in 2017.

The first major controversy of Claypool’s CTA career was the agency’s $16 million “de-crowding plan,” implemented in December of 2012. This added service to 48 bus routes and added 17 rail trips to weekday service on several ‘L’ lines, but also shut down 12 low-ridership bus routes and reduced service on four other routes in order to help pay for the service increases. Advocates are currently lobbying to restore bus service on 31st Street and Lincoln Avenue, and they hope the changing of the guard at the CTA may facilitate this. 

Read more…

5 Comments

Rauner’s IDOT Listening Tour Only Includes a Sprinkling of Cook County Stops

Bruce Rauner at the MPC 2014 annual luncheton

Rauner at a Metropolitan Planning Council event last year. Photo: MPC

Cook County represents 41 percent of Illinois’ population yet only three of the 30 scheduled stops on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s upcoming listening tour regarding Governor Rauner’s proposed state budget will take place in the county: two in suburban Cook County and a single meeting in Chicago.

Rauner has proposed a budget that slashes funding for transit service across the state, which would impact everything from the CTA ‘L’ and Pace suburban buses to the transit systems of downstate cities. Meanwhile, the Republican governor wants to actually increase spending to build new roads.

The proposed fiscal year 2016 budget has reduced operating assistance for the Regional Transportation Authority and its three operators – the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace – by $100 million, and funding for downstate transit providers by $93 million. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association has calculated that the $100 million that would be cut from the RTA is equivalent to the total operations costs for the Orange, Brown, and Red Lines.

IDOT spokesperson Guy Tridgell said the department is working on scheduling an additional Chicago stop. That’s good because the only meeting scheduled in the city is part of a Metropolitan Planning Council Infrastructure Week event, which has a $75 admission charge. “These aren’t intended to be formal public hearings, but rather sessions that allow us to participate in variety of venues throughout Illinois to discuss infrastructure challenges our state faces,” Tridgell said.

Active Transportation Alliance director Ron Burke said the priority isn’t expanding the low number of Cook County sessions. “There are many ways in which IDOT and the state have historically short-changed metro Chicago, but let’s not read too much into how IDOT distributes their listening tour.”

Burke added that the region needs IDOT and the governor to do more, not less, to meet the Chicago region’s transportation needs.” His list of essentials includes:

  • A capital bill for transportation funding with a large share for transit
  • IDOT truly embracing the state’s complete streets law with policies that support walking and biking
  • Safety overhauls for the state arterial roads where a large percentage of Chicagoland traffic injuries and fatalities take place
  • Multi-modal transportation solutions for projects like the redesigns of North Lake Shore Drive and I-290

For those who cannot attend one of the 30 listening events, IDOT is accepting public input via a short online survey.

Meetings

May 13, 8 a.m. at an Infrastructure Week event ($75)
Union League Club of Chicago
65 W. Jackson Blvd.

May 13, 11 a.m. hosted by the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
TBA

May 13, 2 p.m. at the Chicago Urban League
4510 S. Michigan Ave., 1st floor conference room

Updated April 29 to include details of the newly and already scheduled Chicago meetings.

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Program Would Make Transit Free for Commuters to Downtown Columbus

Downtown Columbus workers might soon have access to free transit. Photo: DowntownColumbus.com

Downtown Columbus workers might soon have access to free transit. Photo: DowntownColumbus.com

Only about 5 percent of workers in downtown Columbus arrive by transit daily, according to census data. So Columbus — technically the fifteenth largest city in the U.S. — isn’t a huge transit city, by any means. But an innovative new proposal could help dramatically increase the share of downtown workers who arrive by bus.

A group of downtown property owners is experimenting with a program that would offer free transit passes to those who work in downtown Columbus. The initial 18-month pilot, which recently received final approval, includes just five major employers and about 1,100 employees.

But if it is successful, the plan is to expand free transit passes to employees in a wide area encompassing most of downtown. Marc Conte of Capital Crossroads, the downtown special improvement district leading the initiative, thinks it could at least double the number of people taking transit into downtown each work day.

Some cities, including Boulder and Salt Lake City, have experimented with downtown transit pass systems before, but never on this scale, says Conte. The program is actually modeled after Ohio State University’s BuckID program, which lets all students ride COTA buses for “free” (the cost of the service is included in student activity fees).

Capital Crossroads, a voluntary association of 550 downtown property owners, was grasping for a solution to parking demand. Downtown Columbus office occupancy rates are climbing, and parking lots were developed, but those trends were placing stress on the existing transportation system. Capital Crossroads members, many of them condo owners, “kept asking us to do something about the parking problem,” Conte said. “If you have a big chunk of employees to park anywhere, you can’t find them any parking.”

The city of Columbus built two 700-space downtown parking garages. But the city isn’t interested in additional bonding to build more spaces, Conte says, and market parking rates aren’t high enough to justify private garages.

Read more…

8 Comments

Three Transit Campaigns: Do They Compete or Complement Each Other?

CTA: Let's not take our resources for granted

An RTA funding campaign poster from 2005 on the CTA echoes a similar message about raising funds for transit. Campaigns now are more focused on transit as a necessary component to population and economy growth. Photo: Salim Virji

As the Chicago region grows in population, we’re going to need to provide efficient and affordable transportation options in order to compete in the global economy, and that’s going to require more and better transit. People who live near transit pay less in transportation costs as a portion of their household income, and have better access to jobs, compared to those who don’t. GO TO 2040, the region’s comprehensive plan, calls for doubling 2010 transit ridership levels by the year 2040 as a means to support population growth and reduce carbon emissions.

Chicagoland has a large network of CTA and Metra rail transit routes, but the network’s mileage and ridership are lower than they were in the 1950s, even though the regional population has grown.  Compared to other metropolitan regions we spend less per person on transit service and our population is growing slower. Two years ago, a Center for Neighborhood Technology study found that more housing is being built far from train stations than near them, and that still appears to be the case today.

The CTA increased train service three years ago, but to fund this, the agency cut bus service dramatically. Metra added a significant amount of service in 2006 by launching new lines and extending existing ones, but there has been no increase in service since then. Pace, the suburban bus network, is the only local transit agency in Chicagoland that’s currently adding service. Their first Pulse express bus route will run along on Milwaukee Avenue from Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood to the Golf Mill shopping center in Niles.

While most people agree that the region needs expanded transit service and better-maintained transit infrastructure, and that we need more funding in order to accomplish that, there isn’t consensus on how to raise that money. In the last year or so, local nonprofits have launched three different transit-funding initiatives.

One year ago, the Active Transportation Alliance and CNT kicked off the Transit Future campaign, with a focus on extending CTA train lines by raising funds at the Cook County level. Transit Future is largely inspired by Los Angeles’ Measure R campaign, in which L.A. County voters approved a sales tax. The new revenue is used to provide local matches for federal grants that bankroll transit projects.

The Chicagoland Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s FUND 2040 initiative proposes a small sales tax increase to pay for regional transit infrastructure projects: addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance and building new lines and stations. Priority would go to projects that meet multiple goals in the GO TO 2040 plan.

The Metropolitan Planning Council’s Accelerate Illinois campaign also calls for fixing our crumbling transportation infrastructure, but it’s a statewide initiative, and it also calls for better maintenance of roads. The campaign, which is endorsed by a diverse coalition of road builders, contractors, the three transit agencies, railroads and various businesses and nonprofits, doesn’t identify a particular funding mechanism. Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

Chris Christie Keeps Trying to Balance NJ’s Books on Backs of Transit Riders

Graph: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

That blue line is about to take another steep jump, but not the green one. Graph: Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Governor Chris Christie has really made a mess of New Jersey’s transportation finances. Since 2011, the governor’s “flipping the couch cushions” strategy has resulted in the state amassing an additional $5.2 billion in debt.

New Jersey’s gas tax has not increased since the 1980s and is the second lowest in the nation. Without new revenue, predictably enough the state can’t balance the books. This budget session, New Jersey Transit is facing a $60 million shortfall, and transit riders will soon be paying more for less. The state has proposed a 9 percent fare increase on top of service reductions.

The refusal to raise the gas tax is a hallmark of Christie’s political strategy. A 2012 report from the federal Government Accountability Office concluded that Christie killed the ARC transit tunnel across the Hudson because he wanted to siphon the money off for highways without hiking the state’s gas tax.

While the gas tax hasn’t budged since 1988, New Jersey transit riders got stuck with a 25 percent bus fare hike and a 10 percent rail fare hike in 2010.

A recent poll of New Jersey voters found 50 percent favor raising the gas tax. But that hasn’t convinced Christie to face reality.

Without new revenue, the state may be forced to cancel previously authorized projects, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign warns. And soon, New Jersey won’t even be able to pay the bill on existing debts. Something’s got to give — raising fares and cutting service can’t paper over Christie’s transportation budget mistakes much longer.

18 Comments

Buy Metra Tickets and Reload a Ventra Account With Upcoming App

Ventra app

The upcoming Ventra app will work on both Android and iPhones, and will offer, for the first time since at least 1996, the opportunity to buy Metra tickets on board without a surcharge.

Imagine this scenario: You’re running late to catch Metra’s UP-North Line to Rogers Park and, because the trains run so infrequently, you really need to make this run. You don’t have a 10-ride ticket in your wallet, the line for a ticket agent is too long, there are no vending machines at Ogilvie Transportation Center, and the conductors will charge you a $3 surcharge (soon to be $5) if you buy a ticket from them.

Riders with an iPhone or Android smartphone will no longer experience that stressful situation after Metra, the Chicago Transit Authority, and Pace co-launch the Ventra app this year. For the first time in the last 20 years (at least) riders will be able to pay for their trip on board with a credit card as well as without a surcharge. Being able to buy Metra tickets electronically on the train is a significant new convenience for daily and casual riders that makes up for the limited and slow options off the train.

Last week, representatives from Metra and the CTA demonstrated core features of the app, which is still in development. In light of the Ventra card’s extremely glitchy launch, I hesitate to say it, but my impression was that the new app worked quite well. During the demonstration, Tony Coppoletta, the CTA’s external electronic communications manager and who is involved in the app’s development, noted that “the plumbing is all there, and we’re putting on finishing touches”. The app works but there are still bugs to squash.

All three agencies understand that a successful app debut is important because of the botched Ventra launch two years ago. They’re using an app developer, GlobeSherpa, that has created successful ticketing systems for other transit agencies, and they’re taking testing seriously. So far, over 1,000 people have applied to test the app before the it goes public, and CTA spokesperson Catherine Hosinski said they’ve started “reviewing the responses to make our initial selection.”

The Ventra app has an array of features that can be used with and without creating an account, and certain functions even work without a cellular or wifi connection. For riders who log in to their Ventra account through the app, they’ll be able to access their account balance, buy CTA and Metra passes, load value from a bank card, turn autoload on and off, and buy and use Metra tickets and passes. Additionally, the Ventra app provides travel info from the CTA and Pace bus trackers, and CTA and Metra train trackers.

Essentially, Coppoletta said, “This puts a Ventra vending machine in your pocket.” Even when riders are not signed into a Ventra account, they’ll be able look up travel info and check an unregistered Ventra card’s balance. They’ll also be able to buy and use Metra tickets and passes by typing in a credit or debit card number. However these tickets purchased via an unregistered account won’t be replaceable if the phone is lost or stolen. The system should work well for visitors want to purchase a Metra ticket with a credit card, but don’t own a Ventra card. Read more…