In the Loop: March 30, 2016 - Metropolitan Planning Council

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In the Loop: March 30, 2016

Flickr user Doc Searls (cc).

If voters approve a funding referendum this fall, L.A. residents will soon have a new way to travel along the I-405 corridor.

In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.

@metroplanners news

This coming Monday, MPC Senior Fellow James Reilly will present on Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) findings about the need for transportation investment in the state of Illinois at a Chicago City Club luncheon. We’re excited to unveil our initiative to encourage our state to spend more on making our transportation network great.

Please join us to learn about MPC’s findings and one way to pay for them.

transit in the Chicago region

As discussed in this month’s Talking Transit, ridership on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) El system has grown basically constantly for the past 20 years. Thanks to federal capital funding, the CTA is able to adapt to that growth through the purchase of new rail cars to replace its most aging vehicles and augment the overall size of its fleet. This month, the CTA approved a $1.31 billion contract with CSR Sifang America to build 846 train cars.

What makes the contract particularly interesting is that the trains will be built on the South Side of Chicago in a new factory where 170 people will be employed. The trains will be the first manufactured in the Chicago region in decades.

New data from the Regional Transit Authority show that the CTA will likely manage these trains well. Compared to other rail agencies around the country, CTA’s trains have more miles between mechanical failures than any other.

More transit-oriented development will also attract new riders to the system. Jefferson Park is getting a large new apartment and retail complex next to its Blue Line station, and a recent deal with the alderman representing the area increased the size of the project while reducing its count of parking spaces.

That makes sense, as a new study from the Center for Neighborhood Technology further reinforces what MPC has been arguing for years: The supply of parking for new apartments being built in Chicago exceeds the demand and the city requirements. Center staff examined parking occupancy at 4 a.m. and found that many buildings’ parking spaces were simply not being used by their residents, particularly those who live near transit.


Other regions around the country are investing heavily in new transit lines designed to connect their urban regions.

While Chicago currently has no dedicated funding to invest in any rail extensions anywhere in the region anytime in the foreseeable future, metropolitan areas from Washington to Oklahoma City are funding new rapid transit projects to adapt to their growing populations.

But perhaps no two regions are investing as dramatically as Los Angeles and Seattle, where dedicated local sales taxes have made major rail extensions possible.

This fall, they’ll be proposing even more to their voters. Seattle’s Sound Transit will ask voters this fall to approve a 25-year, $50 billion system expansion program. By the end of the investment plan, Seattle’s light rail network will be longer than Chicago’s El.

In Los Angeles, residents will vote on a 0.5 percent increase in their local sales taxes to fund $120 billion in new transit and highway investments over the next 50 years. Among other projects, the funding would support a rail tunnel connecting the San Fernando Valley with UCLA.


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