MPC Hopes “Transportation Woes” Survey Will Get Lawmakers’ Attention

Data to prevent bus bunching
CTA bus bunching: A transportation frustration everybody loves to hate. Photo: Argonne National Laboratories

Have you had it up to here with crumbling sidewalks and faded crosswalks? Are you sick of pedaling over lousy pavement, or barely visible bike lanes? Fed up with CTA bus routes that have already stopped running by the time you need a lift home, or Metra trains that never seem to run on time? Frustrated that there aren’t more east-west and north-south rapid transit lines, instead of just spoke routes?

Don’t get mad, get involved with the “Illinois Transportation Woes” survey. Yesterday, the Metropolitan Planning Council launched the new questionnaire for Chicago and Illinois residents, to find out what people’s top transportation frustrations are and what they would be willing to pay to overcome those challenges. They plan to use the survey results, along with photo and video documentation provided by participants, to let legislators know their constituents are upset about the current state of transportation in Illinois, and that they support increasing taxes and fees to fund better infrastructure

“With all the issues state lawmakers are facing, transportation hasn’t really risen to the top of their concerns,” MPC spokeswoman Mandy Burrell Booth said. “But we think there’s a big pent-up demand for better Illinois transportation options. We want to inform our legislators about this during their January session. There’s a growing consensus among civic groups that our leaders need to hear this.”

The survey isn’t directly related to the Active Transportation Alliance and Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Transit Future revenue campaign, or the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Fund 2040 proposal to raise money for smart infrastructure investments. However, all of these groups, plus the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, the American Association of Retired Persons, and the American Automobile Association, are teaming up with MPC to get the word out about the questionnaire.

Booth hopes that several hundred people will fill out the first half of they survey, which asks about participants’ transportation habits, their level of satisfaction with their commute, and their understanding of how state transportation improvements are funded. The survey then notes that the state gas tax is currently 19 cents per gallon, and only costs the average Illinoisan $8.25 a month. Respondents are asked if they’d be willing to pay more in gas tax in order to fund transportation enhancements and, if so, how much.

Participants who qualify will be invited to complete a “mission” about their transportation experiences. On the missions, they’ll use video or photos to document three different, infuriating things about Illinois’ roads, highways, side streets, train lines, bus lines, bike routes, or sidewalks.

Additional survey questions ask if respondents would be willing to pay more a little more in sales tax, gas tax, transit fare, highway tolls, or vehicle registration fees to fix the problems. They’re also asked if certain conditions, such as earmarking the extra revenue for transportation, or making the tax hike temporary, would make them feel better about paying more.

Participants who complete the mission are eligible to win one of up to 250 $20 prizes. MPC will compile the photos, video, and commentary into a website, which they’ll use to show politicians that voters are highly aggravated by the state’s underfunded transportation network, and they’re willing to put their money where their mouths are, and pay to fix it.

“Unfortunately, we’ve come to a point in Illinois where a lot of our basic transportation stuff isn’t working, and we need to reckon with that,” Booth said.

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