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While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Help Metra write its strategic plan

Last week I attended the Metra Strategic Plan Open House in DuPage County on behalf of Riders for Better Transit. These meetings, which began July 10 and have been held all over the RTA region, continue this week and next. Find the one nearest to you here.

As I disembarked from the Union Pacific West line train in Glen Ellyn, I was happy to find Metra employees at the station, reminding riders of the meeting and showing them the way to the Glen Ellyn Village Hall. Inside, there were several display boards outlining the process Metra has undertaken to create its strategic plan as well as interactive opportunities for riders to vote on projects and they feel Metra should prioritize./

The walk-through set up was similar to presentations often seen at CTA open houses. Plenty of Metra officials were on hand to answer any questions about the Strategic Plan and how providing your comments can help shape it.

Metra Executive Director Alex Clifford was present at the meeting as well. After talking with Riders for Better Transit supporters who attended some of the other Strategic Plan Open Houses, it’s clear he is doing his best to be present at as many of these meetings as possible. I had an opportunity to talk to Director Clifford about Riders for Better Transit’s comments on the Strategic Plan.

Our thoughts
A strategic plan for Metra has the potential to be a great tool in lobbying for better transit for city and suburban riders alike. The process that Metra is going through to include public opinion provides a great opportunity for transit riders to make sure that the strategic plan is centered on their needs. We have a few suggestions that place the transit rider front and center.

1. Avoid service cuts at all costs, and keep fare increases to an absolute minimum. Fare increases should not outpace inflation and should happen in small incrememnts, not like the 25% increase riders saw recently.

2. Work closely with partner transit agancies CTA and Pace. Riders would like to see better coordination of bus connections, fare collections, and transfer fees. More feeder bus connections to Metra stations, including bus-only lanes and Bus Rapid Transit, would make it easier and faster to travel by transit door-to-door.

3. Work with the local municipalities where Metra stations are located to provide better bike and pedestrian access, making stations “complete.” Consider these multimodal improvements instead of adding more parking to Metra stations because it encourages more transit-oriented development and eliminates the need to drive the last mile to your home or office.

Give your input
Metra continues to hold meetings throughout the region this week and next. Stop by, talk to Director Clifford, and give your input on the agency's plans. If you can't make it to a meeting, you can submit comments through this online survey.

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