There's a lot of news to keep up with right now. And as states begin to reopen, and Illinois inches towards the next phase of its own reopening, a question on everyone's minds is "how?" How will I get to work? How can I safely commute?
Our transportation team, in particular, has been in the media mix lately, on topics as varied as pop-up bike lanes to plummeting transit ridership. We've assembled a primer of recent transportation news that Audrey Wennink, MPC Director of Transporation, and Jeremy Glover, MPC Transportation Associate, have helped shape:
"Chicago-area transit may look different this summer, with social distancing and the end of rush hour," Mary Wisniewski, Chicago Tribune
Just at the CTA, ridership is down 80%. When riders do return — and that process is expected to take much longer than how fast they fled — the experience is likely to be different.
- One way to encourage riders to use transit outside of rush hour is to charge lower fares during off-peak periods.
- Wennink said cities need to encourage biking. A new public scooter program, still being planned by the city, also could play a role, she said.
- “We don’t want this to be a turning point of more driving, and going backwards in terms of equity and safety and sustainability,” Wennink said.
"Chicago’s Transit Agencies Got $1.43B in Bailout Money. Will it be Enough?," Nick Blumberg, WTTW
“Over a quarter of Chicago households don’t own a car,” said Audrey Wennink, “we need to have a healthy transit system in this region because our city and our region and our businesses are built depending on that.”
- “This experience is definitely showing that transit is a social good, it’s a public good, it’s necessary for our society to keep functioning, so maybe we’re going to need to reevaluate those recovery ratios.”
"Rear-door boarding on CTA opens the door to better bus service post-coronavirus, advocates say," Alex Nitkin, The Daily Line [behind paywall]
While moving to rear-door boarding is “great for public safety in the immediate term," Audrey Wennink is hopeful that the program will stay in place “at a more substantial level when things get back to normal.”
- “In the future, the idea is that it would be able to help with crowded buses and long lines, which could have a significant impact” on bus service, Wennink said. “Right now, it’s solving a different problem, but [drivers] are getting experience with it, and moving the fare equipment to the back is certainly a step in the right direction.”
- Wennink pointed to San Francisco and New York City, where all-door boarding has been credited for reducing the time spent at stops.
"MPC, Council on Global Affairs staffers urge the city to open streets during pandemic," Sharon Hoyer, Streetsblog
Audrey Wennink has been urging the city to respond to the demand for increased safe pedestrian and cycling space, and she says she’s taking a long view of how the city can safely transition out of quarantine. “Metropolitan Planning Council is advocating for planning now to prepare us for the transportation transition out of the stay-at-home order,” she said via email. “We can expect that more people will want to bike or walk for transportation [as opposed to riding transit], to maintain physical distancing while traveling.”
- “And since the warm weather also encourages active modes, we’d hope to see the city implement ‘tactical urbanism’ type of improvements to upgrade the existing bike and pedestrian networks, like pop-up bike lanes and pedestrian paths in parking lanes,” Wennink added. “This could be complemented with some pop-up neighborhood greenways—closing local streets to through traffic [as in Oakland] and slowing traffic speeds to encourage biking and walking.”
"Coronavirus Is Ravaging Chicago’s Public Transit—But For How Long?," Kevin Beerman, Chicago Ideas blog
Jeremy Glover, an expert at the Metropolitan Planning Council in the region’s myriad of transit networks, discussed the impact of the pandemic on the local transit systems, how their funding will be impacted long after the crisis ends, and why public transit networks are the backbone of the regional economy.
The Chicago region's transportation network is one of our nation's most coveted and comprehensive. It's essential that we #BuildBackBetter as we ease back from COVID-19. Stay tuned!