Lightfoot Made Big Plans for Transportation; Let’s Make Sure She Follows Through
Without dismissing the real concerns many Chicagoans have about mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot’s record on police misconduct cases, ties to big-business interests, and other issues, yesterday’s election was most likely a win for Chicago sustainable transportation. As I’ve written, both Lightfoot and her opponent, Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle, had generally progressive positions on walking, biking, and transit issues.
But Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, took more sustainable-transportation-friendly stances on dedicated bike/walk funding, the North Lake Shore Drive reconstruction, camera enforcement of bus lanes, and reduced transit fares for low-income Chicagoans.
She also published a thoughtful and forward-thinking transportation platform that included many of the ideas I might have included if I had written it myself, and cited Streetsblog Chicago as a source. (In fact Streetsblog Chicago’s Steven Vance and Lynda Lopez, along with the Transport Politic’s Yonah Freemark did publish a similar document, the Chicago Sustainable Transportation Platform back in September.)
Here’s a list of some Lightfoot’s key transportation promises from her platform, the Active Transportation Alliance candidate questionnaire, and my email interview with her campaign.
- Renew the city’s commitment to Vision Zero
- Earmark $20 million a year for bike and pedestrian safety infrastructure
- Convene a panel of experts to evaluate how Chicago should improve its traffic cam network
- Audit potential bias in ticketing; Focus police traffic enforcement on promoting public safety
- End the police department’s stated practice of using bike enforcement as a pretext for searches
- Look into stopping the suspension of drivers’ licenses for nonmoving violations.
Car trip reduction
- Draft a Chicago Commute Trip Reduction Ordinance to reward employees who don’t drive to work
- Reduce transit fares for low-income Chicagoans of various ages
- Work to ensure every Chicagoan lives within a 15 minute walk of reliable 24-hour transit service
- Encourage CTA to implement all-door bus boarding
- Work with state legislators to permit fair camera enforcement of bus lanes
- Revisit Ashland bus rapid transit plan, possibly with more left turns than originally proposed
- Create 50 miles of dedicated bus lanes (Chicago currently only has 4.1 miles)
- Support the creation of dedicated transit lanes as part of North LSD reconstruction
- Develop a strategy for transitioning Chicago’s bus fleet to electric-only by 2030 or earlier
- Upgrade the Metra Electric District line with frequent service and discounted CTA transfers
Equitable transit-oriented development
- Increase the number of required affordable units in TODs from the current 10% to 15%.
- Support efforts to spur equitable TOD on the South and West sides
- Align licensing fees and background check requirements for taxi and ride-hailing industries
- Increase fees for ride-hailing trips that begin in the Loop and use the revenue to fund transit
- Implement fee for ride-hailing vehicles that operate within Chicago but are registered elsewhere
- Install 100 miles of bikeways, including 50 miles of protected lanes
- Build a continuous Chicago river trail
- Work with regional partners to develop bike/ped paths that connect downtown Chicago to the suburbs
In the wake of Lightfoot’s victory, transportation advocates have expressed optimism about her big plans to improve the local transportation network. They’ve also stressed the need to hold her accountable for following through on these promises despite the car-centric headwinds she will surely encounter.
“The election is over and Mayor-elect Lightfoot must quickly get to work building a transportation network in which everyone can get where they need to go,” wrote Active Trans’ Kyle Whitehead in a blog post today. “As mayor, Lori Lightfoot can reduce traffic crashes and ease congestion by making it easier to get around without driving or riding alone in a car.”
This morning Freemark, a former Metropolitan Planning Council employee who currently lives in Boston, tweeted out a condensed list of Lightfoot’s transportation pledges (which helped inspire this post), and had this advice for Chicago residents:
These are big ideas that will be controversial for some. It is up to Chicagoans to push Lightfoot to ensure that she sticks to these plans. As Chicago’s mayor she’ll control both the streets (CDOT) and transit (CTA)—so she has the ability to make these things happen.
— Yonah Freemark (@yfreemark) April 3, 2019
Rest assured, Streetsblog Chicago will be here to remind Lightfoot of her promises to help create a safer, more efficient, more equitable, and more vibrant transportation system; cheerlead her accomplishments in this area; and, if necessary, call out her administration when the plans get off track. But if all goes well, the next four years should be an exciting time for Chicago transportation.