Flick user Kevin Zolkiewicz.
President Obama recently announced a new transportation budget that called out several Chicago transit projects.
In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.
In March, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) celebrated its 80th Anniversary with an event that recognized the organization’s past accomplishments while sharing goals for its future. Though MPC has an illustrious—and industrious—past, its work continues today.
Indeed, this month, MPC continued its effort to reshape and improve transportation policy and funding in the Chicago region. MPC’s blog noted several efforts to do so at the federal level, including President Obama’s proposed new transportation budget (which specifically noted the Ashland Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project and the Chicago Transit Authority Red/Purple Line Modernization program) and Illinois Senator Mark Kirk’s bill that would allow existing Interstate highways to be tolled, an MPC priority.
In addition, MPC’s work on transit funding in and around Chicago was covered by the Chicago Tribune in an article that noted our region’s significant infrastructure deficits.
The Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force, chaired by MPC board member George Ranney, reviewed two potential governance recommendations for the region’s transit system, including the creation of a single board to manage Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Pace and Metra service or the incorporation of Chicagoland transit into the state department of transportation. The Task Force will make a recommendation later this month.
Whatever the recommendations of the Task Force, transit in the Chicago region continues to improve. CTA has contracted with Nova to provide 300 new buses, which will make the fleet practically all new within a few years. CTA has also announced that its transition to the Ventra new fare card system will be complete by July 1.
Though CTA ridership declined in 2013 (largely due to the Red Line South shutdown), Metra and Pace ridership increased during the same period. So did U.S. transit ridership as a whole, which reached levels not seen since 1956. Much of that increase is likely a result of changing travel trends; in California, for example, the percentage of trips taken by car declined from 86 percent in 2000 to just 75 percent in 2012.
New investments in rapid transit lines, though, are likely also resulting in growing ridership. Maryland’s light rail Purple Line, which will run around the northern section of the District of Columbia, was approved for federal funding. Elsewhere in the Washington region, Arlington County, Va. began work on the area’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, and polls in Montgomery County, Md., suggest strong support for BRT there.
Movement on BRT isn’t confined to the Washington region, of course; Fresno, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M., for example, are planning their own lines. Of course, if you want to try planning transit yourself, try Mini Metro, a new game available online.