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Vallas’ platform has little about transportation. His campaign provided a bit more info.

Paul Vallas at a mayoral forum last month. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago municipal election will be held on Tuesday, February 28, 2023. Early voting is available at two locations downtown and at one site in each of the 50 wards. Find your sample ballot on the Chicago Board of Elections website. 

To help voters make an educated decision about the mayoral race, Streetsblog Chicago has been running a series of articles on candidates’ transportation platforms. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we do not endorse candidates. Mayoral campaigns were invited to share their candidates’ positions on walking, biking, transit, traffic safety, and public space matters. Read previous articles about Kam Buckner’s, Chuy García's, Ja’Mal Green’s,  Lori Lightfoot’s, and Willie Wilson’s platforms, as well as a humorous overview of the hopefuls transit platforms as literal transit platforms

Update 3/1/23, 2:20 PM: After publication of this piece Streetsblog learned that Vallas' website's FAQ page has a CTA section that mentions several more ideas for improving the system, although the homepage of his website doesn't appear to have a "FAQs" or "CTA" link, so it's not clear how one navigates there. In addition to more policing of the system, the FAQ mentions Vallas proposes to (his campaign's language):

    • Operationalize a phone-based app for customers to permit them to immediately report criminal and behavioral issues for immediate response and report service issues
    • Operationalize a phone-based app for customers to permit them to immediately report criminal and behavioral issues for immediate response and report service issues
    • Clean the stations, trains, and buses immediately and regularly thereafter
    • Institute Bus Rapid Transit lanes and lines to improve and speed bus service on major arteries and to prioritize them to connect historically disinvested transit-isolated communities to existing city and regional train and bus lines
    • Implement a phone app to for real time customer reporting of service issues with data directed to a public data portal 
    • Conduct an IT Audit of the CTA tracker system to align it with actual service
    • Move to mandate monthly service reports to be provided to the City Council Transportation Committee for appropriate hearing and to the public
    • Prioritize incentivized hire and retention to address understaffing
    • Expand Inspector General oversight to include fully independent and resourced investigations and audit authority.

Vallas has held multiple government jobs, including CEO of the Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Richard M. Daley. His public safety platform has been the main thrust of his current Chicago mayoral campaign. (He also ran for mayor in 2019, as well as Illinois governor in 2002 and lieutenant governor in 2014.) However, his website has little to say about transit, other than calling for more policing of the CTA, and next to nothing about traffic safety and bike-pedestrian issues.

Vallas' public safety page promises he will "ensure Chicago has a well-resourced CTA Mass Transit [police] Unit by using the funds spent for private security on the CTA to hire more CPD Officers." It claims that the money the CTA is spending on private unarmed security guards and guard dog units could have funded nearly 300 police officers, bringing the number of officers assigned to the CTA to 500. "The goal will be to ensure that every CTA station and platform [has] a police presence and that uniform and undercover officers are riding CTA trains."

The downsides of additional policing of the CTA were laid bare in February 2020, when an officer recklessly fired up an escalator of the busy Grand Red Line station while trying to detain an unarmed man for walking between 'L' cars, seriously injuring him and endangering bystanders.

Streetsblog reached out to Vallas' campaign for more info about his transportation positions, and a spokesperson provided a statement. "The increase in traffic crashes and fatalities for all modes since COVID is unacceptable," the statement read. "Vision Zero needs to be re-started and [Vallas'] administration will focus on getting attention to the dramatic rise in crash rates."

The statement also noted that CTA ridership is still only at about half of pre-pandemic levels, which is a major problem. "We are a city that is very focused on reducing our carbon footprint, so these trends must be dealt with. We must do what we can to make the CTA safe, and reliable so that ridership returns." The campaign pointed to Vallas' goal of adding more police to the system.

"We will also expand on the success of the pilot program to have social services meet the homeless as they are doing at Midway and O'Hare stations and do that at all terminals and throughout the Loop," the campaign stated. "Anywhere the homeless and helpless are gathering – we want to meet them with appropriate care and encourage them to get the help they need." They added that they plan to fix faulty security cameras in the transit system.

As for bike and bus lane enforcement, the statement said, "We are going to work with the police and try different infrastructure improvements to keep these lanes clear. Our city has a fantastic lay out, and we need to improve bike, pedestrian and public transit use and reverse the downward trend in [transit] ridership since COVID began."

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