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Roughly every three days, one person biking or walking is killed by someone driving a car in the Chicago region.

Developing a holistic city-wide mobility platform for the Chicago election

In preparation for the coming election, Active Transportation Alliance held a series of focus groups in neighborhoods around the city to ask residents about their transportation challenges when walking, biking, or using transit.

Over and over, we heard about frustrations with CTA’s reliability and that people were often feeling unsafe, whether they were riding CTA, walking, or biking.

The feedback from the focus groups helped inform the citywide platform on walking, biking, and public transportation that was developed by the Safe Streets for All coalition – a diverse group of organizations and voices.

Valuable input for the platform also came from organizations like Chicago Family Biking, Commuters Take Action, and Chicago, Bike Grid Now!

In addition to the input on the platform, these organization have been instrumental in distributing candidate questionnaires on behalf of the coalition and collecting responses from the 200 people running for 50 city council seats.

Focus group participants, all of whom received stipends, were recruited from community organizations that are part of the Transportation Equity Network (TEN). TEN is a local coalition of community groups, advocates, and civic organizations that work with decision-makers to embed racial equity and mobility justice into transportation.

Focus group participants were residents of the following communities:

  • South Chicago
  • South Lawndale
  • Garfield Park
  • Logan Square
  • Belmont Cragin
  • Austin

 

Common themes that arose during the focus groups were:

  • The pandemic-induced reliability and frequency issues with CTA
  • The need for more customer-friendly CTA amenities, such as bus shelters
  • Concerns about safety, particularly on CTA buses and while walking or biking
  • Problems with CTA bus and train trackers
  • Frustrations with paratransit services

 

Focus group participants were diverse in age and race:

  • The Belmont Cragin focus group had the youngest average age (21 years old) and 91 percent self-identified Latinx.
  • The South Chicago focus group had the oldest average age of 73.4 and was 100 percent African American.
  • The largest focus group session was held with youth recruited with the assistance of Northwest Center and Palenque Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

 

In addition to the input from focus groups and partner organizations, Active Transportation Alliance also asked for input from our members as well as labor groups, grass roots activists, community groups, and civic organizations.

This multi-pronged outreach effort and getting input from so many voices was critical in developing a holistic city-wide mobility platform and engaging people to promote it.

The Safe Streets for All, Transit That works campaign demands better infrastructure and policies that ensure all Chicagoans have access to safe streets and public transportation that is dependable and frequent.

This 2023 municipal election cycle presented a unique opportunity to rally together for a collective effort. The stakes are high: The next mayor of Chicago and city council will lead the city’s response to our growing traffic safety crises and our city’s beleaguered transit system.

Be sure to check out our recording of the Safe Streets for All, Transit that Works mayoral forum. You can also see mayoral and alderperson candidate responses to the questionnaires.

 

Dave Powe, W. Robert Schultz, and Courtney Cobbs all contributed to this blog post.

Above photos show participants in a couple of the focus groups.