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Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

Advocates urge Lightfoot to explore congestion pricing

Active Trans joined a coalition of advocates in calling on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to make the city’s ride-hailing fee more equitable and analyze possible congestion pricing options.

In a letter sent to Mayor Lightfoot and relevant committee chairs, the group argues that changes to the fee structure would encourage more people using sustainable transportation options, such as shared rides, walking, bicycling, and public transit.

Transportation is the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country. In Illinois, more than half of all emissions come from the Chicago area.

Also signing the letter was the Metropolitan Planning Council, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Shared-Use Mobility Center, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, and Via ride-share service.

HOW TO REFORM RIDE-HAILING AND DRIVING FEES

Some changes can be made soon, while others may be longer term. The near-term opportunity is to restructure the city’s ride-hailing fee so it takes into account key factors like location, time of day, and number of passengers. Currently, the fee is a flat 72 cents per ride.

All ride-hailing trips are not created equal. A shared trip between two neighborhoods that lack transit access shouldn’t be taxed the same as a solo trip from River North to the West Loop. Everyone’s transportation choices are affecting community health, sustainability, and equity in different ways.

Longer-term, the mayor should develop and implement a congestion pricing approach for the Chicago’s Central Business District and certain expressways. This could apply to all types of vehicles on city streets — privately-owned cars, taxis, ride-hail vehicles, and trucks. This dynamic fee could vary according to the number of passengers, time, vehicle type, location, and passengers’ ability to pay.

And the new revenue should be dedicated to walking, bicycling, and public transit.

WHY CHANGE IS NEEDED

Chicago must continue to increase investment in walking, biking, and transit to make these options safer, more convenient, and more affordable. But we also need to better account for the community impact of driving or riding alone in a car.

This requires rolling back decades of subsidies that created our car-dependent city. People largely make their transportation decisions based on cost and convenience. If the car is propped up to win in these races, significant progress will be impossible.

During her campaign, Mayor Lightfoot committed to a comprehensive approach to improving mobility in Chicago. She embraced first-term goals to build out Chicago’s network of busways, bikeways, and off-street trails. She also expressed support for further regulating ride-hailing and her transition report recommended analyzing new sources of funding like congestion pricing.

Let’s make sure she accomplishes her campaign commitments and doesn’t succumb to pressure from the anti-bike crowd and bus lane NIMBYs. Sign our petition to Mayor Lightfoot and your alderman today.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash