Friday, September 16, 2011

Did you know?

In Chicago, 138,000 college and university students ride transit with a U-Pass.

It's back to school season, and for many students studying in Chicago, transportation is a major consideration. An estimated 138,000 college and university students currently hold a U-Pass: a semester-long, unlimited-ride transit pass for all Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses and trains. These discounted passes relieve some financial pressures, and encourage exploration and broadened experiences outside the classroom.  

The U-Pass pilot program began in 1998, offering unlimited-ride transit passes to students at 23 local colleges and universities. In 2000, the CTA made U-Pass a permanent program, and in 2001, extended it to include full-time summer students, with participation nearing 40,000. Currently the program reaches 54 schools. Participating colleges and universities must be degree-granting, post-secondary institutions certified by the Illinois Board of Education and enter into a contract with the CTA.  

U-Pass is frequently credited by the CTA as a major contributor to ridership increases. When the program was launched, from 1998 to 1999, CTA ridership increased by seven percent on rail and 2.9 percent on bus—the largest ridership spike since 1976.  Former CTA President Frank Kruesi credited several rebuilding projects with the increase, with the U-Pass program leading the way.  In 2010, the U-Pass generated 32.4 million trips out of 517 million total – around 16 percent of the CTA’s total ridership. Since many students travel during off-peak hours, the U-Pass poses minimal operational costs to the CTA, priced at about $1 per day. CTA sets the price for the U-Pass on an annual basis. For the 2011-12 academic year, the U-Pass costs $100 per semester.

U-Pass is the largest university transit pass system in the country for local services, and similar programs do exist throughout the nation and abroad. Programs vary in implementation. From price reductions with a student ID, to web-assisted discounts, to contracts between universities and transit agencies, both international and U.S. programs are rarely subsidized by the universities, as they often result in ridership gains for various transportation systems. The Carte Imagine'R provides discounted travel for students on local trains in Paris for the entire school year.  In Seattle, University of Washington students can ride local bus and light rail as well as regional commuter lines throughout three counties with their U-Pass. The Virginia Railway Express—which only requires that the rider be 21 or younger for the discount, unrelated to school enrollment—offers a 50% discount of on single-ride tickets.

While the Chicago region’s Pace suburban bus and Metra commuter rail do not currently offer students a discount, many schools, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, are pressuring the transit agencies to get on board.

Local News

Forest Park adopts Complete Streets policyOn Monday night, the Village of Forest Park joined the ranks of nearly 250 communities across the country by adopting its very own Complete Streets policy through the CPPW initiative

Would residents of northeastern Illinois tax themselves for transit? Rahm Emanuel said he would help the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) find whatever money possible to fund an extension of the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch to 130th Street. 

2012 Map Cover Art Contest. Want to share your artistic skills with drivers throughout northern Illinois? Submit your artwork and enter the Illinois Tollway’s 2012 Map Cover Art Contest!

Fox Valley mayors fear major cuts in transportation funds. Six years ago, when Congress authorized the $287 billion federal transportation bill, it included $6 billion for nearly 400 Illinois projects. Some of those projects have been done, but many of them have not, and the money from that bill for the pending projects is back on the table.

HUD grant to spur $272 million investment in Woodlawn. The morning email brought news that a $30.5 million grant has been awarded to the City of Chicago and Preservation of Affordable Housing for Woodlawn's Grove Parc Plaza under Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

Chicago apps contest winner SpotHero fills spaces in tough-to-park neighborhoods. Jeremy Smith knows a thing or two about the difficulties of parking in Chicago. He amassed $3,000 worth of parking tickets in two years of living in Lakeview.

Kankakee vows to fight sales-tax lawsuit. Kankakee's mayor vowed Wednesday to fight lawsuits by the Regional Transportation Authority and the city of Chicago over a program that encourages businesses to come to the small northeastern Illinois community to avoid higher sales taxes in other counties.

Mercy For Animals Unveils Hundreds of Pro-Vegetarian Transit Ads in Chicago. Mercy For Animals (MFA) is known for their tireless outreach work educating the public about the suffering of farmed animals and the positive impact of a diet without meat and animal products, as well as for their cruelty investigations and the resulting video footage from factory farms.

Security Camera Installation Project. In June, new security initiatives were announced which include a plan to double the number of security cameras across the CTA ‘L’ system in just six months, to help prevent and solve crime on CTA

National News

Focus on infrastructure earns associations' approval of Obama's Jobs Act. Several local government and infrastructure associations are calling on Congress to quickly pass President Obama's proposed American Jobs Act (AJA). AJA's focus on infrastructure construction, renewing the Build America Bonds program and green building drew particularly favorable responses.

Why Towns With Good Transit Options Are Recovering Faster From the Recession. Cities and towns with good public-transit options offer more convenience for residents and are, of course, more environmentally friendly places to live. Now it also seems these places are the ones bouncing back quickest from the economic recession.

Rave Reviews for Bike-Shares in Boston, Washington. When New York City launches a bike-sharing system next year, it will revolutionize the way people get around in the city. If the experience of other cities in the Northeast is any indication, residents, workers, and visitors have a lot to look forward to.

DOT partners with Greater Denver to create jobs, add transportation options, and boost development. During the last three years, the Obama administration has been making targeted investments in transportation projects across America to get our fellow citizens back to work, improve mobility and lay the foundation for future economic growth.

Tropical Storm Irene took toll in lost transportation revenue. Tropical Storm Irene cost the state in many ways - destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and power lines, and the life of at least one man. 

Dissent of the week: Impact of wider stop spacing. Moving bus stops further apart achieves a range of benefits in speed and potentially frequency, as I've argued here and here.

Top Designers Unveil Runway-Worthy Bikes for Fashion Week. Handlebars clad in python print and wheels adorned with sequins were all the rage in the Garment District Wednesday as some of city’s top designers unveiled fashion-forward bike designs that will be rolling through Manhattan this Fashion Week.

VDOT announces public-private partnership to maintain rest areas. As a way to offset rest area maintenance costs, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday, Aug. 30, that it has entered into a public-private partnership agreement with CRH Catering Co., based in Connellsville, PA

Minnesota Department of Transportation could face 110 shutdown claims. The price of the state of Minnesota’s 2011 road and bridge construction season is likely going to go up by millions of dollars, and that money won’t upgrade an additional foot of highway.

Maritime Administration's "SafeStor" helps communities prepare for and recover from disasters. Today, I want to highlight one of the ways DOT is helping America's coastal regions cope with severe weather -- particularly during this hurricane season. 

Smart Growth: An Ideological Rubik's Cube. Local governments trying to reform California's model for land use and transportation planning are hitting ideological resistance.

Schumer calls for funds to repair 99 ‘deficient’ bridges in region. Eight bridges along Interstate 190, along with others over the Kensington Expressway, Sheridan Drive and the Route 400 expressway, are among 99 in the Buffalo area that the U. S. Department of Transportation rates as “structurally deficient,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday in calling for increased transportation funding. 

Fairbanks transportation officials use data to target potential problems. Transportation officials are moving forward with plans to improve bicycle and pedestrian travel in the Fairbanks area but also are making sure those improvements will be used.

Steel Industry Seeks Approval of Transportation Bill.  A resurrected coalition of steel industry suppliers and customers will initially focus on gaining approval of a multiyear transportation reauthorization bill that would create steel-intensive jobs, said American Steel Coalition Chairman Michael Romano, during a Sept. 7 conference call.

Global News

Bangalore bus rapid transit plan is still meandering. Bangalore Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system might take more time but it is going to be a mix of the BRT systems of London, Istanbul, and Ahmedabad.

Oman Transport Infrastructure Summit gets under way. MUSCAT Given the ribbon-like linear alignment of cities, a suitable infrastructure that is environment friendly, sustainable and economical seems to be the most viable solution for commuters, said Dr Syed Anisuddin, expert, training and development in Oman’s Ministry of Defence engineering services, on Sunday.

Photo Essay: A Tale of Two Bus Systems in Bogotá. More than a decade after its inception, Bogotá’s pioneering TransMilenio BRT system carries 1.6 million passengers every weekday.

Daimler Buses and Trucks Won at the OkoGlobe 2011. OkoGlobe 2011 recognized Mercedes-Benz Atego BlueTec Hybrid and the bus rapid transit last Tuesday in Karlsruhe at the Center for Art and Media Technology.

Absa beats rivals for multimillion rand Gauteng Provincial Government tender. The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has awarded a R1-billion tender to Absa Group to fund the Gautrain Rail Link Project, a public-private partnership between GPG and the Mbombela Concession Company.

New Study: Indian Cities Score Low in Walkability Ratings. The Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) released a study that benchmarks the pedestrian infrastructure of six Indian cities.

Hybrid in a Trade Squeeze. For General Motors and the Obama administration, the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid represents the automotive future, the culmination of decades of high-tech research financed partly with federal dollars.

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