As the RTA develops the next regional transit strategic plan, we want to hear from people around northeastern Illinois about the value our transit system provides. While ridership has yet to fully recover, the pandemic has underscored that transit is an irreplaceable piece of our mobility network and contributes economically and environmentally and enables opportunity in ways and at a scale nothing else can.
After six months of listening and engagement, the RTA is circulating an emerging vision statement, principles, and suggested outcomes for the plan, which are available for feedback through March 11.
Vision: Safe, reliable, accessible public transportation that connects people to opportunity, empowers equity, and combats climate change.
Part of the engagement conducted during the first phase of plan development called “Making a Plan” included a public survey about the challenges and opportunities facing the future of transit. More than 1,400 people took the survey between November 2021 and February 2022, with more than 75 percent identifying as transit riders. One of the questions asked, “Aside from ridership, how should the RTA measure the value that the transit system creates?” Many of the responses helped inform the emerging vision for the strategic plan.
Safe, reliable, accessible public transportation
Several responses to the RTA Strategic Plan Public survey said the value of transit is in providing safe, reliable, accessible public transportation for the people of northeastern Illinois, including the following quotes to answer the question “Aside from ridership, how should the RTA measure the value that the transit system creates?”
- “RTA should measure the value of the transit system by looking at how accessible and reliable it is. A system that cannot be depended upon by all riders to provide safe, accessible and on-time transportation is not a valuable system for anyone.”
- “By the number of new riders willing to get on board because they feel safe.”
- “Accessibility – whether folks are able to get where they need to go in a reasonable amount of time, and make sure that transit comes at a reliable frequency”
- “Percentage of people that have reliable transit options within 1 mile of their origin and destination point. Hours of service availability”
- “The transit system should be able to connect all area residents to jobs, essential services, and other transportation nodes within a reasonable amount of time in order to encourage use of transit for all trips that cannot be completed on foot. It would be important to highlight environmental, health, and economic outcomes derived from transit use over car ownership and use.”
Connecting people to opportunity
Several responses to the RTA Strategic Plan Public Survey said the value of transit is the way it connects people to opportunity.
- “Access to jobs, services, education, and other destinations people need for opportunity and autonomy.”
- “The value should be based on how many low-income riders are connected to a job or educational opportunity.”
- “Creates the opportunity for people to live in affordable areas and work where there are good jobs.”
- “How much of the area does it connect—how easy it is to get from areas not in downtown Chicago to other areas not in downtown Chicago? How reliable is the transit system—how long are wait times, and how much can someone rely on getting where they’re going if they miss a bus?”
- “Number of locations available within a safe 10-minute walk from a public transport stop. Eg, downtowns, corporate corridors, public attractions.”
Several responses to the RTA Strategic Plan Public said the value of transit is in the way it advances equity in northeastern Illinois.
- “Equity for disabled riders.”
- “Demographics of riders served, contribution to enhancing accessibility in low and moderate income Black and Brown communities.”
- “Equity and accessibility – not just how many riders but is the distribution of those riders reflective of our communities actual economic, racial, geographic, etc distribution. A million riders means nothing if they all come from a limited number of communities where access is superior.”
- “Creating equitable service levels (frequency, reliability, hours of service) for all communities.”
Combats climate change
Several responses to the RTA Strategic Plan Public Survey said the value of transit is in its ability to combat climate change.
- “How using a flexible, affordable, accessible system benefits the climate.”
- “Impact on the environment — every car taken off the road makes a tremendous impact on reducing emissions and energy. Reducing cars also reduces traffic, improving everyone’s commute and reducing load on road infrastructure.”
- “The RTA should measure the value that the transit system creates by the greenhouse gas emissions and automobile congestion it alleviates to show the benefits a reliable regional transit system has on non-riders to advocate for a new public operating funding revenue stream aside from the sales tax.”
- “By either the reduced carbon footprint of choosing transit over driving, or by a reduction in VMT of private cars on major roads. Consider that driving should not ever be considered the “default mode of transit” to compare public transport ridership with.”
- “Perhaps by estimating how many tons of greenhouse gases are kept out of the atmosphere by the transit system.”
The RTA wants to hear from you about the emerging vision, principles, and outcomes developed for the next regional transit strategic plan. Learn more and take a short survey to share your thoughts by March 11.