Report: Chicago risks falling behind other cities in transit growth
- The Active Transportation Alliance released a report this week advocating for Chicago to invest more heavily in its bus services through dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal improvements and faster boarding.
- The report states "more than half of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trips in Chicago are made by bus," yet bus ridership fell by more than 15 million rides from 2015 to 2016, indicating that more people are driving and contributing to traffic congestion. "Without more investment in bus service, Chicago risks more people abandoning transit for transportation options that are more expensive and less efficient, healthy, and green," the report says.
- The report's policy objectives are to: create a plan for Transit Priority Streets with 50 miles of new bus lanes; create effective ways to enforce bus-only lanes; incentivize the purchase of multi-day passes; establish a new local dedicated revenue stream to fund transit improvements and expansion; and push for more data sharing and analysis of ride-hailing trips.
While declining bus ridership isn't preferable for Chicago, it fits with an overall trend happening in major U.S. cities. The Wall Street Journal reports bus ridership across the country was down 13% in the second quarter of 2017, based on Transportation Department data, as cities like Miami and Cincinnati face bus service cuts.
Part of the decline is due to an increased interest in subway transit — which, in most cities, is faster and more convenient — and an increase in traffic congestion from cars. As the trend of ride-sharing becomes more popular, it is likely that cities will see a slight drop in traffic congestion, however that trend will continue to reduce demand for bus services at the same time.
CTA has made the move to take advantage of ride-sharing services by implementing a 15-cent tax per ride on Uber, Lyft and other companies. The money from this tax is already feeding into a $179 million plan to upgrade CTA's security cameras and to speed train services with connected signals. While some security cameras will reportedly be installed at bus turnarounds, it would be in the city's best interest to use some of the tax revenue toward the proposed bus improvements from Active Transportation Alliance.
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