Take a survey in advance of Fair Transit South Cook, and the county will buy you coffee

The Fair Transit South Cook service area. Image: Cook County
The Fair Transit South Cook service area. Image: Cook County

After years of campaigning by transit advocates, more affordable South Side Metra access is finally about to become a thing.

In October Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle announced during her annual budget speech that the county was finally moving forward with the long-awaited plan to lower fares on Metra’s Electric District and Rock Island District lines serving the South Side and south suburbs, dubbed the Fair Transit South Cook pilot.

The plan had previously faced resistance from Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who defeated Preckwinkle in the last mayoral election. Lightfoot complained that the program would cannibalize CTA ridership, even though the county offered to subside the CTA and Metra for any revenue losses.

Cook County is currently working with local transit agencies to implement the three-year pilot program, with a goal of launching in early January 2021 with a 50 percent reduction in MED and RID fares, plus more frequent Pace bus service along Halsted Street, a future Pulse express bus corridor. The county will cover the difference between the reduced fares and full fares for three years, as well as bankrolling the additional bus service.

Public outreach is a major part of the Fair Transit plan, with pilot representatives planning to do pop-up events throughout south Cook and portions of Will counties to reach residents as they go about their daily routines. Surveys will be distributed at various times during the pilot to help gauge its effectiveness.

Right now, the county is seeking input from residents about their travel needs and how the COVID-19 crisis has affected their riding habits via a five-minute online survey that will be used to help shape the program. Eligible participants (you have to live in south Cook or Will counties) will receive a $5 gift card for coffee while supplies last. The survey will be up through January 4, 2021.

Questions include:

  • How do you typically travel to work or school (as a full-time student)? If you use more than one option on a typical trip, select the option that covers the longest distance.
  • How many days a week did you ride Metra in south Cook or north Will County pre-COVID?
  • How many days a week do you currently ride Metra in south Cook or north Will County?
  • How many days a week do you plan to ride Metra in south Cook or north Will County once Illinois moves into and beyond Phase 5 [when the pandemic is under control via a vaccine or other means]?
  • If you rode Metra in south Cook or north Will County pre-COVID but don’t plan to return to Metra, why? [Possible answers include health concerns; a switch to working or study from home; and COVID-related financial concerns.]
  • Which Metra line in south Cook or north Will County would you/do you use most often to begin a trip from your home?

So if you’re a South Sider or Southland resident, consider filling out the questionnaire. You’ll help the county fine-tune the program, and get a gdecent cup of Joe in the bargain.

Fill out the Fair Transit South Cook survey here.

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