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Check Out Recommendations From Lori’s Transportation Transition Committee

10:53 PM CDT on April 23, 2019

Lori Lightfoot at the 95th Street Red Line station. Photo via Active Trans

It bodes well for the next eight years of Chicago transportation policy that mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot tapped Streetsblog Chicago cofounder and deputy editor Steven Vance for her Transportation & Infrastructure Transition Committee. Along with SBC reporter Lynda Lopez and the Transport Politic's Yonah Freemark, Steven published the Chicago Sustainable Transportation Platform last September. The document shares many good ideas with the transportation platform the Lightfoot campaign later released, so her team was wise to seek Steven's input as she prepares to take lead our city.

The members of the committee were asked to submit memos recommending a single strategy to improve transportation and/or infrastructure, and all the memos were published this week. Let's take a look at a few of the ideas that were floated, starting with Steven, of course.

Steven Vance: Install several miles of bus lanes

Steven recommended that within the first 100 days, the Lightfoot administration should pilot bus lanes on streets that have already been identified in past planning efforts by the CTA, the Chicago Department of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Planning Council. He also suggested adding bus lanes on six-lane Columbus Drive in Grant Park, which serves five CTA bus routes. In addition, Steven called for ensuring that bus-only lanes are added to North Lake Shore Drive as part of its upcoming reconstruction, without widening the drive.

Steven acknowledged that "people who oppose bus lanes are also a force to be reckoned with," citing the CTA's Ashland bus rapid transit project, which was shelved due to push-back from merchants and residents, suggesting that better outreach could help prevent such a backlash in the future. Ultimately, he said, the extra effort will be worth it. "Many Chicagoans are not privileged enough to live near one of the city's fast and frequent 'L' lines, but they should not be punished for our inability to provide high-quality transit service because decisions have historically been made to favor car owners."

Jon Hilkevitch: Abolish the Regional Transit Authority

The former Tribune transportation reporter recommended that Lightfoot work with state lawmakers to sponsor legislation in the Illinois General Assembly to withdraw the CTA from the RTA. He argued that "the structure of the RTA, which employs a staff several hundred on a 2019 budget of $41.9 million, only enforces the city-versus-suburbs tensions." Hilkevitch adds that there's little incentive for suburbanites to switch their commute from driving to transit and "the RTA must wear the jacket of blame for failing to provide leadership and fresh ideas."

Amber Smock, Access Living: Improve transportation access for people with disabilities

Smock, the disability rights organization's advocacy manager recommended retaining CTA president Dorval Carter and CTA chair Terry Peterson, "both of whom are long-time disability allies who have been vocal about the importance of building accessibility into improvements to the CTA." In the near future, she called for seeking additional funding to make all CTA stations accessible; training for CTA staff regarding disability policies; and regulating micromobility and ride-hailing so that it doesn't block curb access or sidewalks. In the longer term, she recommended requiring ride-hailing services to provide enough wheelchair-accessible vehicles to create parity for people with disabilities; improving bus service and frequency, since bus revenue is linked to paratransit funding; and including the disability community in all planning for autonomous vehicle technology.

Jacky Grimshaw: Equitable investment, eTOD, and reduced fares

Grimshaw, vice president for governmental affairs at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, argued that "not only should the benefits and burdens of transportation investment be equally distributed, but transportation investments should proactively correct for past disparities." She called for passing a state capital bill and expanding transit to Roseland and Altgeld Gardens by improving Metra service while pursuing funding for the CTA Red Line extension. Grimshaw also recommended taking steps to encourage affordable transit-oriented development as a strategy to help connect low-income and working-class residents with jobs and educational opportunities. In addition she called for implementing a reduced-fare transit program, similar to the Seattle region's successful ORCA LIFT card.

Other Transportation & Infrastructure Transition Committee members

    • Angel Mendez, HERE Technologies
    • Carol Ross Barney, Ross Barney Architects
    • Vig Krishnamurthy, City Solutions
    • Duana A. Love, TranSmart Technologies
    • Ivan Solis, HACIA
    • James P. Connolly, Laborers’ District Council of Chicago & Vicinity
    • John C. Robak, Greeley and Hansen
    • Kirk Dillard, Chairman RTA (who presumably doesn't support abolishing the RTA)
    • Kitty Freidheim, Freidheim Consultants
    • Dr. Kate Lowe, the University of Illinois at Chicago
    • Kimberly Slaughter, HNTB Corporation
    • Marc Poulos, Indiana-Illinois-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting
    • Ron Burke, Active Transportation Alliance
    • Robert Ginsburg, advisor to Chuy Garcia
    • Roberto Requejo, Elevated Chicago
    • Sharon Feigon, Shared-Use Mobility Center
    • Wilbur C. Milhouse III, P.E.

Take a look through the different proposals and let us know what you think in the comments section.

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