ATA calls for 30 miles of bus lanes and masks, hosts transit justice town hall tonight
While the city of Chicago has generally done a decent job with its pandemic response, in general when it comes to COVID-related transportation initiatives, it’s been a case of too little too late. Aside from implementing fare-free rear-door boarding on CTA buses and a few other transit safety initiatives, and rolling out several miles of car-restricted Slow Streets (the city calls them “Shared Streets”) on residential roadways, Chicago has done little to make it safer and easier to get around during the pandemic without resorting to car-based transportation.
City emails show that early in the crisis, the Chicago Department of Transportation considered following the lead of many peer cities by converting parking or travel lanes on main streets to pop-up bike lanes to enable socially-distanced commuting during the current bike boom, but ultimately took no action. Also frustrating is the fact that CDOT chief Gia Biagi publicly discussed the possibility of pandemic bus lanes, which would shorten trips and reduce the chances of passengers being exposed to the virus, in late May, but almost two months later nothing has happened.
Thankfully, the Active Transportation just launched a campaign to spur the city to get moving on building more bus lanes, as well as to provide face masks for all transit riders. As Mayor Lori Lightfoot and aldermen plan the 2021 budget, ATA is calling on CDOT and the CTA to implement 10 miles of bus lanes by the end of the year, and bankroll and build another 20 miles next year.
“Buses are often slow and unreliable due to getting stuck in traffic and [pandemic] capacity limits,” ATA noted in a blog post today. They added that Chicago currently only has about seven miles of bus lanes, while LA has approximately 40 miles and New York has roughly 80 miles. They noted that safe, fast, and reliable bus service is a racial justice service, since Black and Latino residents on the South and West sides are more likely to be reliant on bus service than other than people in other parts of the city.
Today’s launch of the launch of the bus lane campaign coincides with a virtual panel discussion the group is hosting this evening from 6-7:30 p.m. on transit justice issues. RSVP for the talk here.
The discussion will feature ATA bus organizing fellows Rylen Clark and Jamaine Alberto Gooding, plus state senator Robert Peters of the 13th District and Alderman Matt Martin of the 47th Ward. The bus fellows will talk about their work, and then converse with the officials on topics like transit fares and funding, rear-door boarding, and the impact of the transit shutdowns during the George Floyd protests.
Can’t attend tonight’s event? Watch it later on the Active Transportation Alliance Facebook page.