- A group of 13 transportation and environmental advocacy organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Better Streets Chicago and the Active Transportation Alliance, signed a petition calling for Chicago's transit groups to uphold racial equity amid periods of civic unrest.
- The petition requests the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Pace, Metra and Divvy publicly commit to remaining in operation during times of protest, particularly following several months of transit shutdowns that have disproportionately affected communities of color.
- The petition calls for elected officials and transit agency leaders to remain in control of any operational changes to public transit during a time of crisis, and for those changes to be communicated in advance or in real-time across transit apps. The groups also request that the transit system is not used as a "law enforcement tool" for officers.
A number of major U.S. cities — Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and New York, among others — saw public transit service curtailed or shut down with little notice earlier this year in response to racial justice demonstrations and civic unrest.
During the weeks of May 31 and Aug. 10, Chicago’s transit agencies and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration oversaw the shutdown of train service to the city’s downtown and sharply reduced Divvy bike-share service. The city also raised its bridges in the Loop, blocking off roadways and keeping people from entering the city’s center.
"I’ve never seen transit shut down as a tactic to shut down dissent," said Active Transportation Alliance Advocacy Manager Lynda Lopez. "This is definitely a very new phenomenon."
Such abrupt changes to transit service disproportionately impact the communities of color reliant on public transit, according to the petition. The shutdown also forced many essential workers to miss work or pay for costly ride-share services, Block Club Chicago reports.
"Shutting down transportation is not the solution and creates undue hardships, especially for essential workers and Black and Brown Chicago residents," the petition writes. "Transit is a public good and a necessity at all times. Transporting police officers to protests while concurrently refusing transit access to protesters and other riders is transit racism."
The petition comes as Election Day looms and the city prepares for election-related unrest, protests and even potential violence.
"We don’t want to create another situation in Chicago where people are stranded and reliant on Uber and Lyft," Lopez said.
The mayor’s office has not directly addressed the petition or confirmed if the city would shut down transit service on Election Day "but in a statement, the office said the mayor plans to work with city leaders to avoid future shutdowns," Block Club Chicago reports.
And according to WTTW, Metra responded with part of the following statement: "Decisions about halting service at any time are not made lightly, and when we make such a decision our priority will always be the safety of our riders and our employees and the protection of our system."