Aug 1, 2023 - News

Breaking down Mayor Brandon Johnson's transportation plan

A CTA train on the left next to the expressway where traffic is bumper to bumper.

A red line train next to the Dan Ryan Expressway. Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

We're back with a Smart Brevity™ breakdown of another topic in Mayor Brandon Johnson's transition report: transportation.

Why it matters: Greater Chicago saw about 280 million rides on public transportation in 2022, down from 560 million in 2019, according to the Regional Transportation Authority.

Catch up fast: We pored over the 223-page transition report to better understand the blueprint for Johnson's first term, as well as how he'll tackle big issues like getting riders back onto public transit.

  • Yesterday we talked all things immigration.
  • Later this week: Environment, public safety, and arts and culture.

Transportation

The scope: The transition team's recommendations share a goal for how to better and more equitably get around the city and near suburbs.

Committee members: State Rep. Kam Buckner, who made the CTA a focal point of his mayoral run, and former state Sen. Kirk Dillard, chairman of the RTA, lead the 32-member group.

Goal 1: Get the CTA back on track after declines in ridership, reliability, safety and cleanliness during the pandemic.

Intriguing recommendations: Prioritize growing the city's bus rapid transit system with dedicated bus lanes, and improve bus and train service beyond rush hour.

Between the lines: The report stops short of calling directly for the firing of CTA head Dorval Carter, despite complaints from several alders that the transit chief skips City Council meetings and rarely rides the CTA.

Goal 2: Improve access to existing public transportation stations and service lines, especially on the South and West sides, where many residents live in "transit deserts."

Intriguing recommendations: Create more affordable housing and retail areas near transit stops.

What we're watching: How the RTA, which oversees CTA, Metra and Pace, can avoid a projected budget shortfall of $730 million by 2026, without raising fares.

Of note: The report lists a citywide network of connected, protected bike lanes and improvements for connecting bike paths to DuSable Lake Shore Drive as long-term recommendations.

  • The report also recommends prohibiting right turns on red lights to improve safety for cyclists.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that there were 280 million rides on public transportation in greater Chicago last year, not 280 million people relying on public transit.

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