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Biss, Pritzker, Daiber Say They’re Supportive of Active Transportation Modes in New Questionnaire

Three Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates: Biss, Pritzker, Daiber. Source: Biss (Wikipedia), Pritzker and Daiber (their campaigns)

It's time to vote for Illinois governor in the 2018 primary on March 20. The Active Transportation Alliance has collected responses from three Democratic Party candidates for governor on their stances on active and sustainable transportation, as it pertains to the organization's election platform. Illinois's current governor, Bruce Rauner, did not respond.

Early voting is well underway in Chicago and Cook County suburbs. Check the official Illinois voter registration website to see if you're registered and where your registered. You can even register or change your address on the day of by showing up at the local voting booth for your current address.

Here's a summary of what Daniel Biss, Jay Pritzker, and Bob Daiber, had to say about sustainable and active transportation issues in Illinois.

The first question in ATA's survey asks the candidates about their own active transportation habits and whether they or family members walk, bike, or ride transit to get around.

    • Biss said he walks his children to school, and rides transit to work and running errands. He or family members ride a bike for errands and recreation.
    • Pritzker said he uses transit for "other" trips, meaning not to work, not for errands, not for recreation destinations, and not for taking children to school. He said he walks and bikes for recreation.
    • Daiber said he walks for errands, doesn't bike, and uses transit to get to recreation destinations including to Cardinals games in St. Louis via the light rail system there. Daiber commented, "I live in a semi-rural area, so opportunities for walking, biking and transit are less for me than in more populated areas."

Next, ATA asked about transit funding from the state in Chicagoland, and whether they would support restoring CTA, Metra, and Pace's funding to pre-2017 levels (see below), and if they would dedicate at least 40 percent of state transportation funding to transit.

    • Biss said yes and yes.
    • Pritzker said yes to restoring funding, and didn't answer about dedicating funding. He added that he would pass a capital infrastructure bill, which Illinois hasn't had since Illinois Jobs Now, signed in 2009, with funding lasting for several years.
    • Daiber said yes to restoring funding, but said he would say 40 percent is a guideline and not a commitment. He said he also favored extending Metra routes further into rural areas.

The candidates were asked if they would support a dedicated funding source of $50 million for walking and bicycling projects (which is a tiny amount) .

    • Biss said yes.
    • Pritzker didn't say yes, but he didn't say no, adding, "As governor, I plan to promote alternative modes of transportation like biking and walking."
    • Daiber said "yes, but it's hard to promise."

Active Transportation Alliance then asked the candidates if schools should be required to teach children about walking and bicycling, given that only 13 percent of them walk or bike to school, when, 50 years ago, half of them did. ATA also mentioned that five kids are hit by drivers each day near their schools and asked if the candidates supported "strengthening" driver education.

    • Daiber said yes to both, and added, "I think education is lacking. Pedestrians and bicyclists get no education, and drivers get their license at age 16 or 17 when maneuvering the car is their top concern. They don't ever learn the finer points of safety and over the decades they develop bad habits, with nobody to tell them they're wrong. Drivers must be education on how bike lanes work, not to block the crosswalk at a traffic light, not to turn right on red without checking for pedestrians, etc."
    • Pritzker said he supports both
    • Biss said he supports both

The Illinois Department of Transportation is planning to redesign and rebuild Lake Shore Drive north of Grand Avenue. ATA asked if the candidates supported building dedicated bus lanes onto North Lake Shore Drive.

    • Biss said yes
    • Daiber said "during congested periods"
    • Pritzker said yes

ATA's questionnaire also addressed highway widening as a failed tactic to address congestion. They explained, "The Illinois Toll Highway Authority recently decided to expand the Tri-State Tollway at a cost of $4 billion, and recently opened the new Elgin-O’Hare toll road. At the same time, IDOT plans to widen Interstate 290 and Interstate 55. Research and experience show that expanding roads in urban areas only makes traffic congestion as bad or worse in the long run by inducing more people to drive, while physically isolating and undermining low-income neighborhoods."

The question was, "Do you support a state policy that prioritizes lasting, cost-effective congestion relief and alternatives to driving, including better public transportation and rush-hour demand management strategies, rather than highway expansion?"

Pritzker and Biss both said "yes", but Daiber demonstrated a deeper understanding of the issue, and of the Tollway's role. Daiber said, "Set aside the Tollway portion of the question, because the Tollway Authority is set up for one reason: To build and operate tollways."

Daiber also said that he supports bus lanes on the highways, but not an "overall widening" program. He supports transit on I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway), explaining, "The I-290 corridor would handle more people if the Blue Line tracks and signals were improved, if stations were reopened at California, Kostner and Central Avenue, and, should the money be available, if the route is extended at least to the Maywood courthouse/1st Avenue, if not further."

The incumbent

Bruce Rauner's record on active and sustainable transportation is bad.

Transit agencies across the state went without funding for months while a comprehensive budget wasn't passed for two years; downstate transit operators had to cull service. After the comprehensive budget was passed, there was less funding for CTA, Metra, and Pace, than they were used to getting prior to the debacle (this is the "pre-2017 level" referenced in ATA's questionnaire).

The budget issue caused Bikes N' Roses to fire some of their youth staff. The issue likely caused delayed payments or starts on new bike trail and bike lane construction. Even though those are majority federally funded (for now) the payments are matched by state and local funding, and federal payments are funneled through the state transportation department. The state also withheld money from the Chicago Department of Transportation for bike and pedestrian projects last year, and will continue to do so.

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