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Chicago’s first protected bike lane on Kinzie St. increased ridership by 55 percent without increasing traffic congestion for cars.

Mayor Johnson should make 2024 the Year of the Bus 

At the Active Transportation Alliance, we often hear from Chicago transit riders who are fed up with buses that are unreliable and often delayed.

Indeed, it’s a major barrier that keeps many people from using buses. Slow buses that are undependable ensure that people will find other ways of getting around the city.

Thankfully, we know how to fix this problem — and the solution is very do-able.

Countless examples in other cities have shown that bus priority infrastructure is the most cost-effective intervention when it comes to improving the experience for riders and operators.

With confidence in the CTA at what seems to be an all-time low, the agency could use a boost to its reputation.

Prioritizing buses on our streets could be the shot in the arm the agency needs — while also dramatically improving transit service for residents.

Investments in transit yield great rewards. For every $1.00 spent on transit in the region, we get a return of $3.86 in value.

Thanks to Mayor Johnson’s commitment to building out a network of dedicated bus lanes, we’re well positioned as a city to address this crucial need.

Let’s make 2024 the Year of the Bus!

 

A TOOLBOX OF RECOMMENDATIONS

To help get buses moving, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently published a report that creates a framework of where and how to prioritize buses on our streets, as well as both federal and local funding available to implement the designs.

The report, called the Better Streets for Buses Plan, includes a toolbox of street treatments combined with an analysis of key corridors where they could potentially be applied.

The plan establishes a framework to guide how CTA and CDOT will collaborate on redesigning Chicago’s streets to achieve faster and more reliable bus service, improved access to bus stops, and better bus stops.

It’s hard not to be excited as we imagine the impact of effectively implementing these tools throughout the city.

 

 

COLLABORATION AND QUICK EXECUTION

So how do we turn these recommendations in Better Streets for Buses into a reality?

What is most needed now is a taskforce established by Mayor Johnson to bring city agencies to the table to collaborate.

And once the taskforce is established, it can work on swiftly implementing the bus priority improvements.

Fortunately, we have a well-functioning example for this process.

Mayor Johnson can follow the model of the city’s ETOD (equitable transit-oriented development) working group, which is comprised of over 40 community members and stakeholders that advise the city on implementing its ETOD goals. Through this working group, the city maintains its commitment to ensuring community voices guide how Chicago develops and grows.

A similar taskforce should be created in early 2024 to implement the Better Streets for Buses Plan.

 

MORE STAFFING AT CTA AND CDOT

Another needed ingredient to bring this plan to life is additional staff capacity at CTA and CDOT.

More staff would enable better inter-agency collaboration amongst CDOT, CTA, and the mayor’s office, as well meaningful partnerships with community-based organizations, modeled off CDOT’s successful Cycling Strategy. At this time, CDOT has no dedicated staff committed to working on transit projects which must change in order to implement transit priority improvements in a timely manner.

Just as its working group has been key to ETOD’s success, the same community-based approach should be taken when it comes to building out a network of bus priority streets and dedicated bus lanes.

While transit agencies in Los Angeles, New York, and DC are overcoming workforce challenges that have impacted transit agencies nationwide, CTA remains an outlier as it continues to cut service.

CTA also trails its peer cities when it comes to bus lane miles, and it’s even behind smaller cities in the midwest like Cleveland, Ohio and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The mayor should hire more staff dedicated to transit who can help usher in a new era for Chicago transit and make 2024 the Year of the Bus.

 

THE YEAR OF THE BUS

With the Democratic National Convention to be hosted here in August 2024, all eyes will be on Chicago.

We can serve as a national model for a community-based approach to climate change mitigation through bus priority infrastructure. Let’s swiftly build a network of bus priority streets before the nation descends on our city.

Stay tuned for ways to make your voice heard in the new year as we let Mayor Johnson know that 2024 needs to be the Year of the Bus!