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Transition report calls for Mayor Johnson to be champion for public transit

July 13, 2023

Transition

A group of civic leaders, transportation experts, and community advocates is urging Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson to help secure sustainable funding for public transit and build a faster, more reliable system across the region.

After winning the runoff election in April, Mayor Johnson formed a transition team to help shape his policy agenda for the next four years. This included a transportation subcommittee co-chaired by RTA Board Chairman Kirk Dillard, along with State Rep. Kam Buckner and Elevated Chicago Executive Director Roberto Requejo.

The group of more than 30 experts from across industries and sectors spent the last two months developing policy recommendations for the new Mayor and his team. Many committee members also played key roles in the development of RTA’s strategic plan Transit is the Answer, so they were familiar with the challenges the system is facing and what steps need to be taken to strengthen it.

Transit vision

The final report, released in July, provides a “blueprint for creating a more just and vibrant city for all” in 11 different policy areas. The transportation vision is “a regional transit system that sets achievable expectations for service frequency driven by community needs, racial equity, and justice and consistently meets them” and “CTA, Metra, and Pace trips are competitive with private cars and ride-hailing apps in terms of speed and convenience.”

Transit policy recommendations

Following are some of the committee’s near- and long-term recommendations for Mayor Johnson and the public transit system. Many of these ideas are also featured in RTA’s strategic plan Transit is the Answer, and the agency is working to implement them with the operating agencies and partners from across the region.

Advocate for increased public funding

Coordinate among agencies

  • Establish a deputy mayor of transportation position to coordinate across departments and agencies to ensure transportation investments advance policy goals and address intersectionality of transportation, housing, and land use.
  • Improve coordination on fares and scheduling among CTA, Metra, and Pace for their bus, train, and paratransit services.
  • Appoint CTA leadership and RTA, Metra, and Pace board members committed to the administration’s policy priorities.

Improve rider experience

  • Ensure CTA makes reliable, accurate service information available to the public.
  • Enhance service outside of rush hours to make the system more useful throughout the day, particularly for shift workers overnight.
  • Enhance safety, security, and cleanliness at stations and on buses and trains with new programs and personnel, such as a transit ambassador initiative.
  • Partner with RTA and transit operators to host a cross-sector safety summit that includes social service providers and identifies holistic solutions to safety, security, and cleanliness issues.
  • Respond to non-violent emergencies and mental health crises on public transportation through humane, “treatment-not trauma” responses.

Invest in key capital projects

  • Prioritize the development of a citywide network of bus rapid transit (BRT) and dedicated bus lanes that gives buses priority over car and truck traffic.
  • Advance projects that improve reliability where transit service is unreliable or infrequent, such as the Blue Line to and from Forest Park – currently the slowest segment of the rail network.
  • Advance capital projects that improve accessibility through a combination of local, state, and federal funding, including extending the Red Line South to 130th Street and CTA’s All Stations Accessibility Plan (ASAP).

Next steps

RTA looks forward to working with Mayor Johnson and partners from across the region to continue to advance these critical policy goals and make the committee’s vision a reality.

If you’d like to help secure sustainable transit funding and build a stronger transit system for all residents, join RTA’s Transit is the Answer Coalition. More than 100 riders, elected officials, advocates, and other stakeholders are meeting virtually on a quarterly basis to help advance RTA’s strategic plan and discuss ways to support and advocate for transit’s future in the Chicago region.

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