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A bicycle commuter who rides four miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving and about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

RTA’s plan for the future needs more details

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) recently released its draft strategic plan, Transit is the Answer, for public comment.  

The RTA coordinates the Chicago region’s transit system (CTA, Pace, and Metra), oversees its financing, and coordinates regional planning for public transportation in Northeastern Illinois. 

Active Transportation Alliance joined forces with a handful of local nonprofits to send a letter to the RTA on ways to improve the 80-plus page draft plan. Co-signatories were Access Living, Elevated Chicago, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Equiticity,  High Speed Rail Alliance, Illinois Environmental Council, Metropolitan Planning Council. Each of the organizations that signed the letter were involved in the process leading to the publication of this draft plan. 

While we offered support for the principles of equity, change, and service improvements outlined in the plan, we also highlighted its many shortcomings. A major concern is how the plan skips necessary details on how goals will be achieved, leaving the agencies without a roadmap and the public without a mechanism to hold them accountable.  

The RTA should be much more prescriptive on the steps participating agencies, departments, and governing bodies need to create a more connected, thriving region that is winning the fight against climate change.

The RTA should also be setting an ambitious and realistic schedule for realizing the goals outlined throughout the plan.   

For example, the plan identifies the crucial goal of creating better regional coordination between CTA, Metra, and Pace, but doesn’t describe the major steps needed for this to occur.

Here are a few more instances of the plan lacking specifics:

  • The plan fails to outline what needs to happen in order for RTA and its service boards (CTA, Metra, and Pace) to close their financial gaps and support future improvements to our regional transit system.
  • The admirable goal of full fare integration across the region’s transit agencies is identified, yet no timeline or necessary actions are provided.
  • Creating more infrastructure for electric buses is also a goal, but the plan fails to identify the details for making this happen.
  • Taking advantage of the unprecedented amount of federal funding available for Bus Rapid Transit projects is crucial, but how do we do that?
  • Training all staff in supporting people with disabilities and making every transit facility ADA compliant is an important goal, but like so many part of the plan, the public is left wondering how and when these actions will occur.

 

On the positive side, we were pleased to see that the draft plan suggests thoughtful performance measures. We ask that RTA publish these metrics regularly in an open data format so that others can evaluate progress.   

Another positive aspect of the plan is that RTA plans to lead these key efforts:

  • Creating a regional climate action plan.
  • Piloting a regional reduced fare program.
  • Creating a regional accessibility improvement program.
  • Hosting a cross-sector regional safety and security summit.

While we applaud the overall vision for change within the plan, we hope RTA is able to address its shortcomings before their board votes to approve it at its February 16 meeting 

Read the entire letter.