- A group of transportation companies and advocates sent a letter to Chicago's new mayor, Lori Lightfoot, to suggest the adoption of transportation policies that could reduce congestion and pollution while increasing citizens' economic and social mobility.
- The signatories request that Lightfoot:
- Consider and eventually implement congestion pricing.
- Structure the city's ride-hailing tax in a more equitable way that also encourages people to use shared modes of transportation instead of single-passenger private rides.
- Dedicate funding to improve sustainable modes of transportation including walking, biking and public transit, while embracing innovations such as microtransit.
- Lightfoot's office released a statement in response to the letter saying she is committed to an equitable, fiscally responsible, environmentally sustainable transportation system that reduces congestion, according to the Chicago Tribune. The statement did not explicitly state support for congestion pricing.
Transportation agencies and advocates have contemplated or implemented forms of congestion pricing for years. The idea has overtaken high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes as traffic gridlock, especially in urban areas, has reached the point where it's difficult to manage. Many transportation agencies are adding tolls to HOV lanes to further encourage commuters to rethink their driving habits.
Congestion pricing has gained a lot of attention since the approval of a plan in New York this spring, as cities like Seattle, Philadelphia and Los Angeles consider following suit. The concept typically involves a fee or tax for vehicles entering a particular zone during morning and evening rush hours.
Proponents say it incentivizes people to change how they travel and reduces the number of cars on the road, while opponents say it is yet another tax on citizenship and disproportionately burdens already underserved and marginalized communities such as low-income citizens.
Chicago has undergone a number of transportation changes and upgrades aimed at curbing traffic congestion and improving other modes of mobility. The New York Times noted how the Chicago Transit Agency (CTA) has turned around its system and made a comeback thanks to new investments.
Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a push for a number of CTA improvements including $5 million in upgrades to the city's two most popular bus lines and a $33 million transit safety improvement initiative. The safety initiative is funded through an extra 15-cent per ride fee tacked onto each ride-hailing trip, for a total fee of 72-cents per ride that goes to CTA. Emanuel frequently voiced opposition to the spike in ride-hailing vehicles on the road contributing to worsening traffic congestion.
Lightfoot has not yet expressed an opinion on congestion pricing, but during her campaign she did call for a variety of transportation system and infrastructure improvements. She supports further actions on ride-hailing, such as increased fees on all ride-hailing trips in Chicago's downtown.
The letter signatories included representatives from DePaul University, the Active Transportation Alliance, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the Shared-Use Mobility Center, the Metropolitan Planning Council, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Via.