2004 Bus route workshops of the HPKCC Hyde Park Transit Task Force

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit Task Force and the HPKCC website www.hydepark.org. Committee Chair James Withrow. Participate in the Task Force. Join the Conference, support us!

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The 2004 Task Force bus route workshops-summary

Community Workshops-bus service, route changes, public input, service cutbacks, funding for local transit. First were held May 26, 2004, July 14, August 25, October 13. Next expected in late January on Metra/Gray Line issues and impacts of CTA cutbacks if implemented. Workshops are generally held at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 7 pm and are sponsored jointly with 4th and 5th Ward aldermanic offices. Our thanks to the Aldermen and their aides for publicity and attendance and for marshalling backing for solutions and standing up to CTA.

Workshop outcomes:

That service on the #6 be made adequate to demand and the bunching be stopped, then that the X28 run all day and use Lake Park and the #15 also be moved back to Lake Park. These recommendations are not likely to be considered by CTA until the end of the next extension of "trial period," March, 2005.

CTA funding should be revised and increased, with initial emphasis on a Chicago commitment. See reports that follow and the Autumn Essay.

The "core committee" met in December to evaluate Workshop and Task Force accomplishments and weaknesses in 2004 and plan next steps and agenda for 2005. This will be shared later. To join the open or the revolving core group (or both) , contact James Withrow.

To Executive Summary

Bus Workshop reports and summaries through July, 2004

Transit Changes (When Will They Stop!) Summer, 2004

by James Withrow, HPKCC Transit Task Force Chairman. From the Summer, 2004 Conference Reporter

HPKCC's Transit Task Force hosted workshops on May 26 and July 14 to talk about the CTA and how it runs its buses . Twenty-five attended the May workshop and forty-three braved a warm July evening.

At the first workshop, participants worked in small groups to talk about our buses--not only problems the CTA should address, but also things the CTA does well that we wouldn't want to lose.

Drivers, farecards, and inside enunciators got high marks, while capacity on the #6 drew harsh comments. Bus bunching was seen as an ongoing issue and the outside enunciators, especially on residential streets, were criticized. Owl service for East Hyde Park, and more #6 buses in the evenings were listed as opportunities for improvement.

We also discussed how the CTA and the public interact. Participants viewed the public feedback at board meetings as a step in the right direction, but felt the time allotted was severely inadequate. We had mixed feelings about the CTA's website and how the agency handles complaints. Electronic signs on the buses are too often wrong or blank, but the signs at bus stops have been updated quickly with each set of Hyde Park route changes. The lack of advance notice for bus route changes and insufficient consultation for those changes drew sharp criticism. And, we felt we could do more by holding more Transit Task Force meetings and doing a better job of working with our aldermen. Obviously, improving our relationship with the CTA is a high priority.

We had selected the new bus routes as our third topic for the evening, but we decided to revisit the issue because the CTA changed the routes again on June 21.

At the July 14 workshop, the even larger contingent of transit enthusiasts were asked to assume that the #6 route would maintain its present course through Hyde Park and Kenwood and that its service would be adequate for its ridership. With that in mind, they worked in groups to come up with the best arguments for each of the three routes the CTA has used for the#28 in the past year.

The first #28 CTA plan, used in September, October, and November, 2003, had the #28 coming up Stony Island to 56th Street, then west to Lake Park Blvd. to 47th st. At that time, all #28 buses then went to the Lop via Lake Shore Drive. We referred to this as the Lake Park Plan.

The second #28 CTA plan, used from December 2003 until June 2004, saw the #28 travel up Stony Island, go east at 57th, the north on South Hyde Park Blvd., back went on East Hyde Park Blvd. to Lake Park and then north to 47th St. At that time, all #28 buses also weren't to the Loop via Lake Shore Drive. We referred to this as the Hyde Park plan.

The third #28 CTA plan, in use since June [2004], splits the #28 into two routes. The #X28 follows the route of the Hyde Park plan above and continues to the Loop. The #X 28 runs only during rush hours, although this is a generous definition of the rush hours, with #X28 buses leaving the Loop as late as 7:45. The regular #28 follows the route of the Lake Park plan, terminating at 47th St. We referred to this as the Split plan.

Concern was expressed that as a practical matter, we can't assume the #6 will have adequate service and that the Hyde Park and Split plans do a good job of supplementing that #6 service for those living in the densely populated South Hyde Park corridor.

The arguments for the Split plan included the idea that it represents a compromise between the Hyde Park and Lake Park plans. The #X28 provides an alternate route across the Loop for residents of the South Hyde Park Blvd. corridor. The #28 buses provide service to the Hyde Park business district for those living north of the 5100 block of Lake Park. A suggestion was made that the Split plan would be less confusing if the #X28 were given a different route number.

Workshop participants noted that the Hyde Park plan benefits businesses on 55th St. east of the Metra tracks, while residents of South and East Hyde Park Blvd. enjoyed hot having to walk under the Metra viaduct for trips to the west Loop and south to Stony Island.

Participants noted that the Lake Park plan provided the best service for residents of West and Central Hyde Park. (There is no north-south service in Hyde Park between Cottage Grove and Lake Park, a distance of 10 blocks. With service to the Loop on South Hyde Park Blvd., that distance becomes at least 12 blocks.) South Hyde Park Blvd. is a residential street and many residents feel there are now too many buses moving through that corridor, contributing to noise, pollution, and traffic flow problems. The Lake Park plan is a swifter route through Hyde Park for riders traveling through Hyde Park for riders traveling from Stony Island to the south. The business district along Lake Park Blvd., especially the original Co-op, is best served by the Lake [Park] Plan, which brings riders from the Loop, from the Stony Island corridor, and from the densely populated blocks of Lake Park between 47th and 51st Streets. The Lake Park plan also provides better transferability to the #55 Garfield bus.

Sadly, we ran out of time before we could talk about the #15, but I'd like to lead off our August 25 workshop with that topic. And, very quickly, I passed out a flyer about CTA finances that as put together by new core committee member Kenneth Acoff.

The CTA is once again in a financial crisis with projected deficits as high as $100 million. If the Transit Task Force could make up that difference with a monetary contribution of our own, we would, but I'm afraid we'll have to contribute in a different way.

TTF believes we have a dual responsibility. While we have to look out for the transit needs of own neighborhoods, we also have to help CTA get the resources it needs to respond to our requests. These workshops further that agenda by informing voters of the CTA's requirements and motivating these voters to lobby our elected officials on behalf of public transit.

Motivating the public to make the case for the CTA will be much easier if the agency and the public interact with mutual trust and respect. If we're going to ask Chicago taxpayers, let alone taxpayers from other regions, to foot more of the bill for the CTA, it only makes sense to squabble sensibly.

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_________________________________________________

Final Report on the July 14, 2004 bus routes workshop

By James Withrow, HPKCC Transit Task Force Chairman

July 14th Workshop Report from
the Hyde Park Transit Task Force

43 people participated in the July 14th workshop of the Hyde Park Transit Task Force (TTF), the second in a short series of workshops designed to improve interactions between the public and the CTA. The next workshop will be on Wednesday, August 25th, at 7 pm, again at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood Avenue Avenue. We plan to address the #15 bus route and make a final recommendation about the Hyde Park section of the #28. You can comment on this report or request that we contact you about future TTF programs or volunteer to play a larger role in the TTF by any of these methods:

Email James Withrow, TTF Chairman: Withrow@uchicago.edu
Call the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference at 773 288-8343
or send a note to the TTF at 1513 E. 53rd St., Chicago, IL 60615

After a short introduction, the participants used maps of the Loop to indicated where they wished a bus would pick them up in an area bounded by Oak St., Halsted, Roosevelt and Lake Michigan. Each person placed three dots on a map at his/her table. The chairman has compiled the group maps into a larger Loop map, which will be displayed at the next workshop.

Next we discussed where the #28 bus should travel. The participants were asked to assume that the #6 route would maintain its present course through Hyde Park and Kenwood and that its service would be adequate for its ridership. With that in mind, they were then asked to work in groups to come up with the best arguments for each of the three routes the CTA has used for the #28 in the past year.

The Lake Park Plan. The first #28 CTA plan, used in September, October and November of 2003, had the #28 coming up Stony Island to 56th Street then west to Lake Park Blvd to 47th St. At that time, all #28 buses then went to the Loop via Lake Shore Drive.

The Hyde Park Plan. The second #28 CTA plan, used from December of 2003 until June of 2004, had the #28 travel up Stony Island, go east at 57th Street, then north on South Hyde Park Blvd., back west on East Hyde Park Blvd. to Lake Park and then north to 47th St. At that time, all #28 buses also went to the Loop via Lake Shore Drive.

The Split Plan. The third #28 CTA plan, in use since late June, splits the #28 into two routes through the Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods. The X28 follows the route of the Hyde Park plan above and continues to the Loop. The X28 runs only during rush hours with #X28 buses leaving the Loop as late as 7:45. The regular #28 follows the route of the Lake Park plan described above, but terminates at 47th st.

Concern has been expressed that, as a practical matter, we can't assume the #6 will have adequate service and that the Hyde Park and Split plans do a good job of supplementing that service for those living in the densely populated South Hyde Park Blvd. corridor. At the next workshop, we plan to address how this concern affects our recommendations.

The arguments the Workshop participants came up with for the Split plan included the idea that it is a compromise between the Hyde Park and Lake park plans. The X28 supplements the #6 during rush hours and provides an alternative route across the Loop for residents of the South Hyde Park Blvd. corridor. The #28 buses provide service to the Hyde Park Business district for those living north of the 5100 block of Lake Park. A suggestion was made that the Split plan would be less confusing if the #X 28 were given a different route number.

Workshop participants noted that he Hyde Park plan also supplemented #6 capacity to the Loop. Businesses on 55th St. east of the Metra tracks benefited from more foot traffic under this plan and residents of South and East Hyde Park Blvd. enjoyed not having to walk under the Metra viaduct for trips to the west Loop and south to Stony Island.

Participants noted that the Lake Park plan provided the best service for residents of West and Central Hyde Park. South Hyde Park Blvd. is a residential street and many residents feel there are now too many buses moving through that corridor, contributing to noise, pollution, and traffic flow problems. The Lake Park plan is a swifter route through Hyde Park for riders traveling from the Stony Island corridor to the south. The business district along Lake Park Blvd., especially the original Co-op, is best served by the Lake Park Plan, which brings the business district riders from the Loop, from Stony Island Corridor, and from the densely populated blocks of Lake Park between 47th and 51st Streets. The Lake Park plan also provides better transferability to the #55 Garfield bus.

The August 25 workshop will endeavor to make final recommendations on the #28 and #15 bus routes because the CTA has recently indicated to our aldermen that the agency plans to hold a hearing in early September with the intention of making the current routes permanent. The CTA has been invited to attend our August workshop, although the TTF has no way of compelling the CTA to send representatives.

Again, our thanks go out to those whose participation made this workshop successful.

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A letter to the Herald on the Workshops by Gary Ossewaarde June 2004

To the Editor:

The first in a series of bus route and CTA service workshops was held May 26 by the Hyde Park Transit Task Force, jointly sponsored by Alderman Leslie Hairston, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference’s Transit Committee. The workshops are held at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

Our lively participants found much to agree upon but feel we need the views and ideas of many more of our neighbors before we reach a consensus plan we can recommend to CTA in the coming months.

The third changes in a year for routes #15 and #28 go into effect June 20. Many concerns have been voiced and many have signed petitions (most notably patrons of the Hyde Park Co-Op Markets) about effects of previous changes on peoples’ lives. The new changes create further complication. The changes are, however, a six-month trial, which gives riders and the affected communities time to review and recommend.

Through the workshops and other means, the Aldermen, the Task Force, and the Conference are seeking broad public participation in conversation about the changes, other aspects of CTA service, and how CTA gathers public input into planning—what riders like and dislike, and new ideas.

The Task Force has prepared a Hyde Park Bus Rider’s Route Survey that we need to have as many local riders as possible fill in and return. These are initially available from the Conference. Call 773 288-8343 or e-mail hpkcc@aol.com.

Please watch for our next, mid-summer workshop. For information or to express your views, please call the 4th Ward Office (773 536-8103), the 5th Ward Office (773 324-5555), or the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (773 288-8343).

For Task Force information about bus and other transit issues visit www.hydepark.org, Transit News. And thanks from the entire Task Force.

Gary M. Ossewaarde, Secretary, Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

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From the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Reporter, Winter 2004

Transit Options: New Opportunities, Old Problems

It is hard to say whether the transit glass is half full or half empty. On the positive side, the HPKCC Transit Task Force participated in discussions with local officials that have culminated in legislative hearings and transit agencies giving serious consideration of the goals of the 'SECRET' Plan—(South East Chicago Rail Enhancement Team.) These goals are frequent (10 minute) Metra trips and development of a universal fare card or transfer between CTA and Metra. CTA and Metra are testing the idea with the CTA's new ChicagoCard Plus and a small trial of a hybrid pass. Metra has also made some Electric District upgrades, resumed work on local stations, and set aside funds for viaduct and embankment upgrades to start in 2005.

Whether Metra can be induced to increase midday and weekend service is as yet unknown. Certainly, despite the many advantages and strengths of Metra's Electric service, it remains and under-used infrastructure, not carrying its weight in a Southeast corridor that is under-served (despite CTA and Metra statistics), according to documentation by such transit groups as Neighborhood Capital Budget Group and testimony at an Illinois House committee hearing attended by HPKCC Task Force members.

CTA carries by far the largest number of area commuters. Last summer, CTA introduced a major route restructuring that held great promise. While the jury is still out, it seems that: )1 The changes were planned and executed with too little public input and attention to where and when people really need to go, 2) Too many resources were dedicated to getting people downtown without attention to connecting and local route coordination, 3) The fleet was stretched too thin, shorting and standing riders, especially on the #6 and 4) a mid-course quick-fix flip was made to routes #15 and #28 in east Hyde Park that the Task Force and our local aldermen consider a step backward for connectivity, route efficiency, and riders—especially those living in central Hyde Park or those seeking to get to our business districts.

The Task Force will seek and convey the community's input on bus route and service corrections through a public forum this spring and will continue to develop wide partnerships with transit advocacy and resource groups. Give us your feedback at hpkcc@aol.com and consult the extensive transit information posted in our website, hydepark.org.

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Bus workshops late summer-autumn 2004

Report on the August 25, 2004 HPKCC TTF Bus Routes Workshop

By Chairman James Withrow

This was the third in a series of transit workshops designed to improve the
relationship between the CTA and our neighborhoods' citizens. It included a
question and answer period with a representative from the CTA and final
votes on the routing of the #X28, #28 and #15 bus routes through Hyde Park.
You can comment on this report or request that we contact you about future
TTF programs or volunteer to play a larger role in the TTF by any of these
methods:

Email James Withrow, TTF Chairman: Withrow@uchicago.edu
Call the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference at 773-288-8343
or send a note to the TTF at 1513 E. 53rd St, Chicago IL, 60615


After a short introduction, workshop participants questioned CTA planner Kim
Porter about her department's role in selecting the routes for our
neighborhoods' buses. Porter gave us some insight into what the CTA
Planning Division looked at to determine our bus routes, including counting
passengers at bus stops, counting customers as they enter and exit buses,
and the census data proving that South Hyde Park Blvd is the most densely
populated corridor in our neighborhoods. She revealed that the CTA was
pleasantly surprised by ridership increases for routes to the south of Hyde
Park and that the #15 carries many riders along the Jeffery corridor and
serves 3 major high schools.

Next we voted on the route for the #15 bus through Hyde Park. Each attendee
was asked to declare by paper ballot how many times in the month of August
s/he had ridden the #15 and then whether s/he preferred that this bus travel
on Lake Park or on South Hyde Park Blvd or had no opinion. Of the thirteen
who expressed an opinion on the matter, 11 preferred a Lake Park route while
2 voted for the South Hyde Park Blvd.

The participants were then asked to assume that the #6 route would maintain
its present course through Hyde Park and Kenwood and that its service would
be reasonably adequate for its ridership. Given that, they were then asked
to vote on which route plan the #28 should follow. By a vote of 12 to 3 to
5, participants endorsed the Lake Park over the Split and the Hyde Park
Plans respectively.

The next workshop will be held on Wednesday, October 13th, at 7pm, again at
the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 South Kenwood. We'll do an update on
what we think will happen with our bus routes as well as talking about the
cuts in service which are likely to occur under the CTA's Gridlock Proposal.
We've invited CTA personnel to answer questions about CTA's finances, but so
far we have no confirmation. In any case, we'll provide some information
about CTA funding and talk about what we can do to prevent service cuts and
fare increases in the future.

Again, our thanks go out to Aldermen Preckwinkle and Hairston and their
aides Pam Cummings and Sue Purrington, all of whom have been strong
advocates for improving public transit in our neighborhoods. The Transit
Task Force thanks all of those who participated in the May, July, and August
workshops as well as the CTA's Kim Porter.


James Withrow, Chairman, Hyde Park
Transit Task Force

 

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August 25, we heard from and thoughtfully asked questions of CTA spokesperson an planner Kimberly Porter then chose our recommended best routing for the #15 and 28/X28 in the neighborhood.

The report on the August 25 workshop, attended by nearly 30, is being shared with aldermen and CTA (with a special letter) and the public.

For over 40 minutes and before we took any votes, we heard from CTA representative Kimberly Porter on planning rationale for and realities behind routing, buses selected, etc. and members asked thoughtful questions--some of the new realities and principles of planning she presented will be given in the report.

In the votes, done partially at tables, most favored change was returning the 15 to Lake Park nearly as favored was moving the 28 to Lake Park (with full daytime hours to downtown--this and the next proviso were consensus positions) , provided #6 service matches the need for capacity (assumed by the core group to include seating) and frequency. Much of this is reflected in the post Aug. 25 Resolution that can be read below.

The Task Force Core Group is aware of the subtleties in the matter--the six has to be fixed before we can contemplate/ask X28 move to Lake Park and become all-day, and a hitch to fixing the 6 is service of the 6 by the 77th garage (near its terminal--that garage cannot presently service the larger, articulated buses). And we recognize the danger that the X28 market may be thin with fewer riders from the So Hyde Park corridor and so CTA could decide to drop X28 with its west Loop alternative. The Core Group draws the conclusion that the TF must insist that neither the 6 nor X28 routes can yet be made "permanent."

The core group has been meeting ahead of the September hearing and October 13 Workshop. It is presenting its report and resolution to CTA and our aldermen.

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From the August 25 Transit Task Force Meeting
2004 August 25 Transit Task Force. Aldermanic aides ponder choices. August 25, 2004 Transit Task Force Bus Workshop
Pam and Sue, aids to Aldermen Preckwinkle and Hairston, with James Withrow in background A room full of participants
Transit Task Force chairman James Withrow leads the August 25 2004 bus workshop
Task Force chair James Withrow conducts discussion

Kimberly Porter of CTA answers questions

Aug. 25, 2004 TTF bus workshop

Aug. 25, 2004 TTF  bus workshop
Audience members listen as CTA representative Kimberly Porter discusses reasons for route changes CTA Representative preparing her notes

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Herald coverage of the August 25 2004 workshop, annotated

Hyde Park Herald, September 1, 2004. by Nykeya Woods

Area residents assembled at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club for the third installment of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit Task Force Bus Workshop Aug. 25.

In August 2003, Chicago Transit Authority decided to restructure bus routes in communities neighboring Lake Shore Drive. In April [sic-December, then June 2004] 2004, CTA further experimented with these routes. Now CTA is considering making these experimental bus routes permanent.

Information gathered at these meetings will be given to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) to be given t the CTA as the opinions of the community.

CTA commuters voted on where they want the #15 Jeffery Local and the #18 Stony Island Local bus routes to run. Almost three quarters of the attendants wanted the #15 Jeffery Local to move back to Lake Park Avenue. Some added that Lake Park Avenue was equipped to handle the bus. Five people wanted the bus to stay on Hyde Park Boulevard and these were split on whether they wanted the #15 Jeffery Local on Lake Park Avenue or Hyde Park Boulevard.

Most of the attendants wanted the #28 Stony Island Local to stay on Lake Park Avenue. There was not a vote for input [sic!!!!!!!] on the #X28 Stony Island Express which was created in April [sic].

Residents also had a chance to ask CTA representative Kimberly Porter questions about route selecting and restructuring. Porter reiterated the reasons CTA decided to change the bus routes, which were due to the population explosion on the southeast side due to the reconstruction of the Lake Shore Drive [sic!!!! ].

Porter also stated that CTA knows where riders get on the bus and when they get off the bus. Riders are counted as they use their fare cards.

James Withrow, Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit Task Force Chairman, said CTA did not say anything surprising at the workshop. "I thought, in a word, [the meeting [sic!!!!] ] was anticlimactic," said Withrow. He said the vote about where residents would like the #28 and the #15 bus routes was a decision that the aldermen anticipated. It was also something he expected.

Withrow said he was grateful that Porter came to the workshop. It shows that the CTA cares about how changes are affecting the community and they are taking an interest in what residents think about the bus routes, he said.

Unfortunately, the restructuring of these routes made using the bus more difficult for some. CTA sponsored a meeting in July at the South Shore Cultural Center about making current bus routes permanent. Hyde Park resident Jontay Darko was disappointed when the CTA decided to change the original bus routes. "I felt it was unfair that the 51st Street bus does not go east of the Dan Ryan {Expressway]," said Darko. "That doesn't make sense because I live on 51st Street, but I can't catch the 51st Street bus."

Darko pays extra on the #15 Jeffrey Local to go to 51st an Ingleside avenue. Before the CTA re-routed the #51, the bus traveled east and west from Kedzie Boulevard to Lake Pak Avenue. "The fares have already gone up," continued Darko, "so people have to pay extra money if they live on 51st Street and want to go west."

Hyde Park residents still question decisions on what direction bus routes travel. CTA officials said that studies signaled a need for service changes. "Initially we decided to change the routes because we thought there was a need for improved transit service," said Mary Christopher, general manager of Service Planning. "They are making all these changes," said Darko. "They want to make stuff easier and more convenient. But it's not more convenient. And it's also more costly for people who don't have money."

The Transit Task Force will have another meeting on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, 5480 S. Kenwood Avenue. CTA will hold a meeting at the South Shore Cultural Center in mid September. At press time, no time or date was set.

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Resolution from the Core Group of the Hyde Park Transit Task Force, as endorsed September 2, 2004 by the Board of Directors, Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

[To resolution as its own page, for printing.]

Whereas,

Our Aldermen and their aides understand the needs and preferences of our community in regards to bus routes, be it

Resolved,

The CTA Board should alter CTA's current procedures for bus route changes, eliminating "experimental" route changes. Unless a route change is agreed to by the affected Alderermen, the CTA should conduct extensive public hearings well in advance of any changes.

Whereas,

Providing adequate capacity and frequency of service between the Loop and the densely populated South Hyde Park Blvd corridor should be the CTA's first priority in our neighborhoods, and placing the termination of the #6 route near the 77th Street garage has given the CTA the choice of buses too small to be adequate for this corridor or else inefficient "deadheading" where buses travel empty from the 103rd Street garage, be it

Resolved,

The CTA, our Aldermen, and citizens in our neighborhood should consider other alternatives before making this route permanent.

Whereas,

The community has consistently expressed its desire for the #28 and the #X28 to run to the Loop all day and to run along Lake Park instead of East & South Hyde Park Blvd., be it

Resolved,

With adequate capacity on the #6 route, Lake Park should be the permanent route for the #28 & X28.

Whereas,

Residents of East & South Hyde Park Blvd decry the number of buses on their residential blocks, especially during the rush hours, the businesses along and near Lake Park welcome these buses and their riders, and our community feels strongly that the #15 bus route is currently misplaced, be it

Resolved,

The #15 should also run along Lake Park, not East & South Hyde Park Blvd.

Whereas,

We believe the CTA truly wants to provide the south Lakefront with efficient and reliable bus service, be it

Resolved,

Collaboration with our Aldermen and with groups such as the Transit Task Force is the surest, swiftest route to achieve such goals.

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CTA held a hearing September 28 on whether to make permanent routes #15, #28, #X28. Six persons from the HPKCC Transit Task Force attended, most testifying, in addition to the aides of our two aldermen. The stated purpose of the hearing was in the short run misleading, since in discussion afterwards it became clear CTA already decided to make the present routes permanent. But the input will be used to make changes in the spring, maybe what the participants and alderman asked. With one voice, it was asked that #15 move back to Lake Park, #28 and X28 be reunified, go all day and preferably in the night and on Lake Park once the #6 problems (described in detail) are fixed. Problems with route operations were detailed by testifiers. GMO

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Task Force open letter to CTA October, 2004

In the last year, CTA has changed the routes three times for the #6, #15, and #28 buses with no meaningful neighborhood collaboration. So, the Hyde Park Transit Task Force held public workshops in May, July, and August to consider our new bus routes. While we learned much from our neighbors during these workshops, our findings did not surprise us. Our aldermen had reached similar conclusions early on.

Providing adequate capacity and frequency of service between the Loop and the densely populated South Hyde Park Blvd. corridor should be the CTA's first priority for Hyde Park and Kenwood. Placing the termination of the #6 route near the 77th Street garage has given the CTA the choice of buses too small to be adequate for this corridor or else inefficient "deadheading" where buses travel empty from the 103rd Street garage. The CTA, our Aldermen, and citizens in our neighborhood should consider other alternatives before making this route permanent.

However, while that densely populated corridor should get the best bus route, it doesn't follow that it should get all the bus routes. There is no north-south route to the Loop between Cottage Grove and South Hyde Park Blvd., a distance of 12 blocks. The community has consistently expressed its desire for the #X28 to run to the Loop all day and to run along Lake Park instead of East & South Hyde Park Blvd. With adequate capacity on the #6 route, Lake Park should be the permanent route for the #28 & X28.

Nor does this densely populated corridor benefit from having a route that few of these residents use. The #15 should also run along Lake Park, not East & South Hyde Park Blvd. We heard from many residents of East & South Hyde Park Blvd. who dislike the increased number of buses on their residential blocks, especially during the rush hours. Meanwhile, the businesses along and near Lake Park welcome these buses and their riders. From the CTA's financial perspective, Lake Park is a better choice because that route is faster for the #15, resulting in small savings of operator hours. Our community feels strongly that this bus route is currently misplaced.

Our Aldermen and their aides understand the needs and preferences of our community in regards to bus routes. The CTA Board should alter the CTA's current procedures for bus route changes, eliminating "experimental" routes. Unless a route change is agreed to by the affected Aldermen, the CTA should conduct extensive public hearings well in advance of any changes, preferably after collaborating with interested citizens while designing the changes.

Agency personnel seem to look at the CTA Board as the audience for its facts, analysis, and plans. But, riders, other interested citizens, and our elected officials have the power to find new revenues for the CTA through increased ridership and political action. These interested parties should be the agency's primary audience when considering changes.

We've met many talented CTA employees and we're willing to concede that any one of their planners probably knows more about bus routes than any one of us riders. But even the wisest planner knows less than a whole roomful of us. We believe that CTA truly wants to provide the south Lakefront with efficient and reliable bus service, but collaboration with our Aldermen and with groups like our Transit Task Force is the surest, swiftest route to achieve such goals. Together, we can grow ridership and find new revenue for the CTA. Apart, public transportation in Chicago lives a hand to mouth existence.

The Hyde Park Transit Task Force will always be interested in collaborating with the CTA to improve public transportation....

Thank you for your dedication to public transportation

James Withrow, Chairman, Hyde Park Transit Task Force

Herald coverage October 13, 2004

Cuts outlined in CTA 2005 budget by Mike Stevens

Hyde Park's bus and train service appear to be on the chopping block as the Chicago Transit Authority proposed cutting one-fifth of its service last week to plug a $77 million shortfall in its operations budget. Unless the Illinois General Assembly approves extra operating subsidies during the six-day fall veto session, CTA officials said last Monday that 28 bus routes face elimination as does late night "L" service.

Local bus routes, including the #6 Jackson Park Express and #28 Stony Island, would suffer reductions in service and hours.

"While we didn't get any routes [completely] eliminated the bad thing is that almost all of the routes in Hyde Park are going to have reduced hours [as well as] longer waits for buses all day long," Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference transit task force chairman James Withrow said.

"The service cuts are part of the CTA's $912 million "gridlock" budget, one of two the agency announced last Monday, which anticipates legislators taking a pass on funding increases for the cash-strapped CTA.

The second budget, dubbed the "mobility budget," maintains most current service and anticipates $8.5 million extra from the state legislature in Springfield putting the budget 's price tag at $1.02 billion. Under the bad news budget, riders can expect to wait longer for the #2 Hyde Park Express, #6 Jackson Park Express, #15 Jeffery Local, #18 Stony Island. Service hours for most local route will be cut back. For example, the #6 will start running two hours later at 6 a.m. and stop an hour-and-a-half earlier at midnight on weekdays. The #2 Hyde Park Express reverse commute, from downtown to Hyde Park in the morning and Hyde Park to downtown in the evening, will also be eliminated.

Nicki McGil, who works and takes classes downtown, rides the #6 Jackson Park Express almost daily to get back and forth to Hyde Park. "[Now,] you wait on the bus, 10 to 15 minutes, then it's a straight shot to the Lop," McGil said. "I think [cuts] will definitely have an effect."

CTA officials blame the possible deficit on a "fundamentally flawed," 20-year-old formula that funds Chicago's three mass transit agencies--Metra, the CTA and Pace. The CTA warns if legislators don't retool the funding formula, this year's budget would mark the beginning of at three-year cycle of service cuts and fare hikes as their yearly budget continue to erode under the current formula.

Critics argue the CTA's bad news budget employs scare tactics meant to rile riders into lobbying their legislators on behalf of the CTA. CTA spokesman Robyn Ziegler objected to the characterization. "What we are talking about is reality if we don't get additional funding," Ziegler said. "The CTA does not want to cut service. But without adequate funding we cannot continue to operate at our current service levels.."

Ziegler said residents throughout the region will likely feel the effects of service cuts if current CTA riders opt for their cars over trains and buses that come less frequently and are crowded when they do arrive. If you think of how many cars are represented by a full bus or a train, that is a lot more people on area roads, Ziegler said.

Even civic watchdog groups, like the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, admit CTA is in a pickle. "This is very real. We're confronted with a system that has been inundated with unfunded mandates from city hall," said John Paul Jones, NCBG' director of Community Outreach.

Withrow echoes these sentiments. The CTA will host a series of public hearing on proposed service cuts starting Oct. 14. For more information go to www.transitchicago.com. [mentions the HPKCC workshop of October 13. ]


Report and Summary of the October 13 2004 transit workshop.

October 13 workshop quick report. The CTA board was reported to be likely October 14 to extend the present routes experiment for another 6 months (as they in fact did). The Task Force hopes CTA listens to us and the many who spoke at the September hearing, including moving the 15 and X28 back to Lake Park and making the X28 again run all day providing the #6 is made adequate to demand. The Task Force came up with many ways to increase and improve CTA funding, many different from the CTA position.

Chairman's Report - The Case for Subsidy of Public Transportation

Withrow reiterated his stand to the Herald March 23, 2005: Time for the city and state to step up to the plate.

On October 13th, our Transit Task Force held the fourth in a series of workshops designed to improve transit in Hyde Park. This event revolved around the CTA’s financial issues. We came up with a list of reasons to subsidize public transit and I’m using that list as the backbone of this article. The reasons are the groups’ (except for the last one); the accompanying claims are mine and I can provide evidence for these assertions. Just request an electronic version with the hyperlinks by e-mailing me at Withrow@uchicago.edu.

 

REASONS TO SUBSIDIZE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

 

Air Quality. While the science of air quality is less than optimal, our best estimates are that air pollution claims at least 50,000 lives per year and that auto emissions account for over half of the air pollution in our cities. A person commuting by rail causes only one fourth the smog-causing nitrous oxide of a solo car commuter. A commuter on a bus (and the study used 10 as the number of riders apt to be on a bus) causes only two-thirds of this pollutant. The numbers for other pollutants make car travel look even worse, although a packed car or a hybrid might be better in some cases.

During the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, the city closed its downtown area to car traffic, added buses and trains, and promoted carpooling and telecommuting. During this period, Atlanta’s inner-city children on Medicaid showed a 42% decrease in asthma-related emergency room visits. Chicago has more cases of asthma per capita than anywhere else in the country, possibly because of the Lake Breeze Effect, which sweeps the air pollution caused by five million morning commuters out over the Lake where it heats in the sun, allegedly creating even more toxic combinations, only to get swept back into the city at night. The asthma death rate among African-American children in Chicago is double the national rate.

Road Accidents. In 2000, over 41,000 Americans died in motor vehicle fatalities, outnumbering those who died from breast cancer, suicide, firearms, leukemia, AIDS, poisoning or drugs. Motor vehicle injuries lead all causes of deaths among persons aged 1-24. Per passenger mile, riding a bus is 17 times safer than riding in a car and riding the el is probably safer than staying home.

Road Congestion. Cities like Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles are spending a lot of money to make transit a better option because citizens of these automobile cities have come to realize that total reliance on cars for transportation means gridlock. Mostly due to the explosion in light rail construction elsewhere, U.S. passenger miles on public transportation have grown faster than those in private vehicles since 1995.

Land Use and Property Values. Transit-oriented neighborhoods like Hyde Park are more pedestrian friendly because less real estate needs to be devoted to parking and roads. (No mode of transportation is better for air quality, crime reduction, and personal health than walking.) A study done in the Chicago area found that the property values of residences within 500 feet of a rail station were 25% higher than for similar properties without a rail station. The success of Wicker Park or neighborhoods along the Brown and Red Lines points to a growing acceptance of public transit by young people who consider it part of the urban experience.

Business. The Loop simply wouldn’t be what it is without transit, but then public transportation promotes a good business climate in much of the region. It expands the pool of potential workers for employers and expands job opportunities for those who need them the most. Transit makes shopping, entertainment, cultural and sporting events more accessible, too.

Social Welfare. Transit disproportionately serves those who need our help the most—the elderly, the disabled, the impoverished, and students. Our non-profit institutions like clinics, schools, community centers, museums, and churches need to be accessible to all.

Foreign Policy. If Americans used public transportation at the rate Canadians do, we would reduce our oil dependence by an amount equal to half a year’s oil imports from Saudi Arabia. Our balance of trade would be greatly improved and our troop presence in the Middle East would probably be reduced.

Parity. Our federal government rightly subsidizes airport and highway construction, so equal subsidizing of public transportation would only be fair. Instead, transit gets a tiny fraction of federal transportation money and then mostly for capital improvement projects. There are practically no subsidies for CTA operating expenses, but plenty of federal mandates, including paratransit, which is expected to cost the CTA $50 million per year very soon. Until the federal government does the right thing and funds paratransit, the state should do so, instead of making riders shoulder this burden alone. But our city government provides what may well be the largest single subsidy for the automobile, which brings us back to where I started.

Parking Subsidies. We should face the fact that residents believe the government owes them a free parking spot, preferably right in front of their homes. There’s probably no way, in this political environment, to change that expectation—a sad fact for our aldermen, I’m afraid, who have to deal with parking controversies ad nauseum. But we should admit that the city is squandering opportunity costs by providing free parking in neighborhoods. That is, the city would be within its rights to lease parking spaces on its streets to the highest bidder. That it chooses to give away these spaces, first come first serve, has resulted in a classic example of a “tragedy of the commons” where the best strategy for private interests conflicts with the public good. Hence, more cars in Hyde Park than the neighborhood was built for.

And the city’s answer to this tragedy of the commons is to build more spaces. Millennium Park, for instance, is arguably the world’s most expensive roof for a parking garage. The underground parking won’t pay for itself, as originally suggested, but instead requires a $50 million diversion of money from a TIF fund for the Loop. While the extra parking is needed to attract suburban shoppers, that’s still a major subsidy from the city on behalf of automobiles.

In our own neighborhood, TIF money will someday probably be used to build a parking garage near 53rd Street at an estimated cost of $10 million for 450 spaces. I’m in favor of that. Our local businesses need to be able to attract shoppers from a wide area and a stronger retail sector is good for Hyde Park, giving us more goods and services within walking distance—an extremely valuable component of our quality of life here. But that garage’s price tag comes out to about $22,000 per parking space.

The city’s parking subsidies don’t stop there. Unfortunately, it’s embedded in our zoning regulations, too. Practically all cities require most retail developments to provide parking for their customers, an expense that gets passed along to drivers and transit riders alike. When zoning requires residential developments to provide parking, what effect do you think that has on affordable housing? Parking regulations aren’t free.

I wish I could tell you that the City of Chicago is equally as generous when subsidizing public transportation. As you may know, the CTA receives about half its operating revenue from the farebox. Most of the rest comes from sales tax revenue. In the city, 1% of your retail purchase goes to subsidizing the CTA and, except for a paltry $3 million per year, that’s the extent of the city’s contribution. Those in suburban Cook County pay the same 1% (which gets split between the CTA, Metra, and Pace) and the collar counties pay .25% (which is split between Metra and Pace). The State of Illinois then provides a one-quarter match of the region’s transit-devoted sales tax revenue and the RTA divides that between the CTA and Pace.

The CTA is asking to change the funding formula and the agency’s data can be found online. I found it convincing on three points. Someone besides the CTA, temporarily the state perhaps, should pay for paratransit. The collar counties are being subsidized by suburban Cook County and their sales tax devoted to transit should be raised to .50%. And it’s probably right that the CTA should get a slightly larger proportion of the sales tax collected in suburban Cook County because the CTA provides over half the rides there. Because our neighborhood is served by both the CTA and Metra, I’m a little wary of any solution that leaves either agency in a worse financial position, so we should be careful about advocating for that third point.

What’s missing in the CTA’s analysis is any comparison with how other U.S. cities fund public transportation and I think there’s a reason for that. I tend to believe that the head of the CTA is running a reasonably efficient transit system and that he wants transit to succeed in Chicago—but not if it means stepping on the Mayor’s toes.

To be fair, the city has spent money on some CTA capital projects. In fact, the city, thanks in part to the help from the federal government, built and owns the Orange Line. And it’s true that the city does pay for the CTA’s security force, although most cities do the same. But other operating expenses are paid for through the sales tax and the state match. I’m not sure how we can justify asking suburban Cook County residents to contribute the same sales tax rate to transit that we contribute, when we get far better service in the city.

I urge everyone who cares about public transportation to talk to our elected officials at all levels about the importance of transit to our neighborhoods and our region. The solution to the CTA’s structural financial imbalance should involve every level of government and be broadly shared.

Transit riders are doing their part to improve air quality and property values, while reducing automobile fatalities and road congestion. Our foreign policy, business environment, and social welfare depend on parity of subsidy for public transportation. Maybe we can even solve the “parking problem”.

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October 13 2004 meeting summary by Gary Ossewaarde

 

Bus routes. All testifying were on the same page on the routes, asking for the 15 to go back to Lake Park and also the 28X (to be all day) provided the #6 is adequate--capacity and frequency in the So Hyde Park Blvd. corridor being primary--, and that these routes not yet be made permanent. CTA indicated privately that the routes would be made permanent but revisited later. More recently CTA indicated it would extend the experimental routes another six months. A letter sent by chairman Withrow to CTA was distributed.

CTA funding. Charts from CTA and Kenneth Acoff's analysis of funding were distributed--available in the 2005 cuts/farehike page. CTA charts were discussed, said by CTA to show, for example, that current regional tax distribution formulas bear no relationship to performance and cost effectiveness of trips. Each CTA trip requires only .87 in subsidy vs. Metra in-city 1.32 and Metra collar county trips 3.63. Paratransit costs have spiraled out of sight with the lapse of federal subsidies. Comment was made that the information set forth to the public is not clear and simple enough.

Each table was asked to write 10 reasons service cutbacks should be avoided, why CTA should be subsidized if that's necessary to avoid the cuts, and what effects of cuts would be. Types of impacts included (specifics and statistics were cited):

increased congestion and travel times

pollution and air quality, health including asthma in kids

accessibility to work, healthcare, amenities, entertainment and culture and the right of access to every neighborhood in the city

connectivity with other transport modes

students, seniors, low-income and those without the auto option

unequal treatment compared with highly subsidized highways, airways, waterways

adverse effect on businesses, downtown and shopping areas, nightlife business

negative effects on property values (cf. transit responsible mortgage studies and pilot projects)

decreased property values and dampened development

price of gas/energy independence effects

Each table was asked to suggest where CTA should get more money from. Most said go to local taxpayers through gas tax, then sales, Not property. Most added the state side (or local option) could use a graduated income tax (tackle schools and other funding problems at same time--Illinois is out of tune, it was said). Gas and income were the most favored ways.

end waste, corruption and least effective spending

offer a major increase in the city subsidy, paid for by local or area taxes: sales, downtown, parking and fines, garages, gas, local income

raise locally the difference the fare box doesn't cover

graduated state income tax with lowered property tax to go to local schools, transit etc.

charge vehicles coming into the city

Also supported was changing the model of allocation from geographic to use measures--some combination of trips and miles and cost per each; reward for higher efficiency and productivity. Also suggested were modifying the farebox part, such as a zone surcharge overlay (especially for coming into downtown) or charging suburbanites more. Withrow suggested that paratransit costs should be subsidized by the mandating federal or state governments.

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