Sound Transit on Flickr (cc)
Seattle's light rail system, which opened in 2009, could be up for a major expansion if voters approve a funding referendum.
In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the easy availability of free parking reduces transit use and increases the use of single-passenger automobiles. Free parking also increases neighborhood congestion, pollution and can actually reduce local business sales. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been working to address this issue on multiple fronts. Recommendations from our study with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning on parking in the Wicker Park-Bucktown neighborhood are now being put into place by a local alderman, who is allowing additional parking meters on a busy commercial street.
We’re also working with the City of Chicago to evaluate potential changes in local parking requirements, which currently enforce a minimum of one car per housing unit for about 98 percent of Chicago’s residential land. Minneapolis, our neighbor to the north, offers some interesting ideas about how to address that problem through eliminating requirements in areas near transit.
MPC’s work in 2013 demonstrating the limited value of the proposed Illiana Expressway is also bearing fruit. Governor Bruce Rauner announced last month that the state would cease investing in planning for that road.
Illinois still has more work to do to ensure that our transportation system is adequately funded, however. The Accelerate Illinois campaign is a coalition of partners including MPC, AARP, the Regional Transportation Authority, the Illinois Soybean Association and many others encouraging legislators to add additional revenues for transportation—something many other states are addressing directly through increases in their gas taxes this year.
transit in the Chicago region
Budgetary difficulties at the state level will make funding our region’s transit system more difficult this year. Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority may have to reduce the number of train and bus services they provide if the legislature does not offer adequate funding.
Fortunately, the Chicago Transit Authority still has some important resources on its side. Its new president, Dorval Carter, has 30 years of transit experience and comes most recently from the Federal Transit Administration, where he was the acting chief of staff under U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
The Transit Authority is also continuing several important construction projects, such as the new Washington and Wabash El station in the Loop. This project has required the demolition of the 119-year-old El station at Madison and Wabash, though many historical artifacts of that building are being preserved.
Chicago is also serving as a model for other cities. MasterCard, the credit card provider, is looking to implement open transit fare payment systems similar to Chicago’s Ventra card, in places around the world. In a partnership with Cubic technology, MasterCard is hoping to allow more people to use just one card for all their train, metro, bus and road transactions.
Boston recently released a study on the potential for bus rapid transit in that city, replicating MPC’s work from 2011 in planning a large BRT network for Chicago.
But other cities are ahead of us in terms of expansion. Jerusalem recently announced it will move forward with a major new line on its light rail system. Seattle is planning to ask its voters to consider approving up to $15 billion in tax increases for light rail expansions in the inner city and to several suburbs. This vote would occur in 2016 and would be the third such referendum in the Seattle region since 1996.