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Bus Fellows deliver comments to CTA board

Active Trans’ Bus Organizing Fellows Rylen Clark and Jamaine Alberto Gooding submitted comments to Chicago Transit Authority August board meeting.

Rylen provided oral comments before the board while both Jamaine and Rylen submitted written comments.

You can read Rylen’s full comments here and below and Jamaine’s full comments here. You can watch the entire CTA board meeting recording here.

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Take action now in support of 30 miles of bus lanes and masks for riders! Please share this link with your networks: https://bit.ly/ChiTransitBudget

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Good morning to the members of the CTA Board,

My name is Rylen Clark. I am from Chicago and I have lived in the Chicago area for most of my life. I have extensive experience in peer-to-peer nonprofit organizations that primarily focus on at-risk youth at drop-in centers such as Center on Halsted and Broadway Youth Center in the Lakeview area.

I currently work at Active Transportation Alliance as a Bus Organizing Fellow. As a Bus Fellow, I have been collecting public input on how to make bus service work better for South and West Side community residents.

The speed and reliability of CTA buses in Chicago — an ever-present problem — has been amplified by COVID-19. Active Transportation Alliance is calling for rolling out 10 miles of bus lanes before the end of 2020 as part of the city’s COVID-19 response, as well as funding and construction of 20 additional miles by the end of 2021.

We ask you members of the CTA board to make bus lanes a priority because they are instrumental in ensuring that bus trips are reliably able to connect folks to schooling, jobs, family, and healthcare.

A key to equitable public transit is affordability. Active Trans would like to enact Fair Fares, making transit free for youth under 19 who qualify for free/reduced lunch, and reduced for low-income individuals. Around 20 percent of riders make less than $20,000 a year, which in turn requires them to spend 6 percent of their income on transportation. A 50 percent fare discount could potentially save someone $630 a year.

Busing to and from school is often not available and not all students attend schools nearest them. Charging youth and essentially adding another barrier to accessing education, after-school activities, doctors appointments, etc. is incredibly harmful.

We urge the board to explore ways to make transit more affordable for low income families during this unprecedented economic crisis.

Riders have told us that their concerns around health and safety have been heightened as a result of the Coronavirus. Universal masking is one of the simplest ways to make sure everyone riding public transit can be safe. Unfortunately, masks are not something that everyone has access to.

The CTA should encourage universal mask-wearing by expanding  the “Travel Healthy Kits” program at busy bus stops and stations and by installing mask dispensers on buses and trains.

The local operator union ATU241 has recently launched a petition to encourage more mask wearing on transit due to their concerns around low compliance. Providing a mask for every rider is a way to address those concerns.

With regards to safety on transit, CTA has a contract with the Chicago Police Department to patrol CTA at $10 million per year. There was a recent police shooting on CTA after the Mayor announced an increased police presence back in March.

Police accountability is a topic that is repeatedly brought up, and the time has come when alternative methods of keeping transit riders and operators safe need to be discussed and implemented.

We call upon the CTA Board to review the contract with CPD and begin a public engagement process with transit riders and operators about what safety on transit means to them.

In an unprecedented move, the City of Chicago and transit agencies decided to discontinue all its services with little to no warning for thousands of Chicagoans around the city at the end of May and early June.

There have also been more localized, rolling shutdowns during protests. From nurses to gas station workers, to protesters and people just trying to get to the grocery store, hundreds and potentially thousands have been left stranded around Chicagoland.

The decision to shut down transit with little notice has prevented people from taking needed trips and shows no regard for those who rely on the system for their everyday essential needs. We call upon the CTA Board to address when and how these decisions are made and to prevent future situations where riders are left stranded.

In conversations with community residents, I found that many people avoided public transit because of health and safety issues. Getting the conversation started not only prioritizes riders and drivers but makes transit a more enjoyable experience overall.

Working within the South and West Sides and acknowledging the disparity those communities face and implementing change to support them is the main goal of Active Transportation Alliance. We are hopeful that the CTA Board will address our calls for action and do everything in its power to make these changes.

Thank you for your consideration of these matters,

Rylen Clark

Bus Organizing Fellow. Active Transportation Alliance

Rylen@activetrans.org

Take action now in support of 30 miles of bus lanes and masks for riders! Please share this link with your networks: https://bit.ly/ChiTransitBudget

 

Photo credit: WBEZ