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The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.

Belmont Cragin youth urge CTA board to upgrade bus service  

Two community youth leaders pressed the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) board at the February meeting on service and cleanliness issues, earning commitments from CTA leadership that they would work to address their concerns.

Minerva Garcia and Yalinette Rivera are youth organizers from the Belmont Cragin Youth Leadership Council, a part of the Northwest Side Housing Center. Both Minerva and Yalinette testified at CTA’s February board meeting.

Minerva is a junior at Northside College Prep and Yalinette is a junior at Lincoln Park High School. They both face long commutes on transit to reach their schools from their homes in Belmont Cragin.

Belmont Cragin is a working-class community with a majority Latinx population that includes many immigrants and one of the highest ratios of youth compared to the rest of Chicago. Like other Brown and Black neighborhoods in Chicago, it’s been one of the areas in Chicago hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the neighborhood isn’t served by the CTA rail network, many people get around by relying on bus service that is often slow and unreliable.

Active Trans is working with leaders in the community to uplift their transportation needs as part of our COVID response advocacy.


Minerva told the CTA board she and her fellow organizers aim to “address and eradicate the existing transportation inequity in Belmont Cragin — a community that is historically underserved.”

She said the area’s most popular buses — Fullerton #74, Diversey #76, and Narrangansett #86 — are all slow and infrequent, pointing to failing grades on Active Trans’ bus report cards. Sharing stories of how this often results in she and her friends struggling to get to and from school, she urged the board to implement more bus-only lanes.

Board members and CTA President Dorval Carter pledged to work with Minerva and her neighbors to address the service issues. President Carter said the next step should be a meeting with CTA’s Chief Planning Officer Michael Connelly.

Watch full video of Minerva Garcia’s remarks.


Yalinette focused her remarks on cleanliness issues on buses often full of passengers. She says fabric on the seats collects dust, dirt, and bacteria, frustrating the many families and older adults who rely on the bus to get around.

She pointed to issues with the air quality and wondered why CTA doesn’t do a better job sharing cleaning updates with riders — especially during the pandemic.

President Carter and members of the board told Yalinette they’re in the process of upgrading the seats. They said they liked her idea for the agency to tell riders the last time a bus has been cleaned with signage and e-communications. They planned to follow up with her to talk further about this suggestion.

Watch full video of Yalinette Rivera’s remarks.


Kudos to Minerva and Yalinette for going in front of the board to share their concerns — as well as possible solutions. Youth advocates such as Minerva and Yalinette can be powerful forces in improving transportation in their communities.