Move Together: National Shared Mobility Summit

Recently, RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden had the great pleasure of addressing the National Shared Mobility Summit.

We thought we would share her remarks:

The RTA is the only entity tasked with overseeing public transportation in our region, which is provided by the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace—or the Service Boards.  We specifically focus on finance—approving the Service Boards’ operating budgets and capital plans—and looking at transit planning from a regional perspective.

Our region consists of six counties—Cook, Lake, DuPage, Will, Kane and McHenry. We and the Service Boards serve about 277 municipalities.  Of course, the largest municipality in our region is the City of Chicago.

The Service Boards provided about 640 million rides last year.  Our region covers 7,000 route miles and includes about 6,300 buses and rail cars. Our regional system employs more than 16,000 men and women.

Our system is the second-largest transit system in the U.S. by passenger miles traveled, behind only New York. Which by the way spends about 4 times per capita what we do on its transit system.

Our operating funding structure, put very simply, is three tiered: 1. sales tax 2. state funding and 3. fares and other system generated revenue.  2015’s  regional transit operating budget is about $2.86 billion.

Our capital program is about $1.3 billion. This is shy of the $1.6 billion we need to  meet our capital needs going forward.

Our capital funding is 100% dependent on government funding—whether it’s grants or low-interest loans– and we have been vocal about our needs in this regard.

While we’re not here specifically to talk about public transportation funding, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that finding long term, sustainable funding for public transportation should be at the forefront of all of our minds.  The success and sustainability of shared mobility depends on the continued success of our system and systems like ours around the country.

Which, in some ways, leads us back to the reason we are all here: what is the future of our transit system and all the elements that depend on it—including shared mobility?

Shared Mobility

What does “shared mobility” mean to the RTA, here in the Chicago region?

As agencies, it means working together to efficiently move people from Point A to Point B.   Transit is a vital component of—perhaps really the backbone of–the greater shared-mobility ecosystem.  Shared mobility options allow people to get to and from transit; they also provide people with flexibility to take transit for one leg of a trip and another mode for a return trip.

The service boards move two million riders each work day—they are riding transit, and are taking multimodal trips – biking, Divvying, carpooling, vanpooling, park-n-riding, shuttling, walking, and sometimes…running!

And, let’s not forget:  technology and information are game- changers.  Transit needs to keep up.  (Hold up phone) We have more information and tools at our fingers tips today than ever.  We need to harness that.  Transit information must be readily available so people can make convenient choices. Transit today, maybe divvy tomorrow. Ease of payment is also critical.  I’m using the new ventra app that includes mobile tickets for Metra and nearly every day a rider asks me about it.  It’s being tested now but I know when it rolls out, people are going to adapt immediately, as we’re all so used to—actually we expect—technology and multi-modal decisions to go hand in hand.

So now, “working together” has taken on other forms…

The RTA joined the Chicago Department of Transportation to fund bicycle parking facilities at CTA stations and worked with suburban communities to assure once a rider gets to a transit stop, they can safely cross the street to get to on the bus or train.

Pace provides a Call-N-Ride service that helps connect the rider to the “last-mile” where our fixed route system doesn’t now go.  For the price of a regular Pace bus fare, residents can call this reservation-based, curb-to-curb, shared-ride service.  Or, commuters can join a carpool using Pace’s carpool-matching program or even start their own vanpool.  In that case, colleagues with similar trips are offered a dedicated, low-cost Pace van they can keep parked near a primary driver’s residence or at a Metra station. In that example, a resident drives a Pace van!

We have also funded  “shuttle bugs” that are 50% subsidized by companies, and allow Pace buses to take riders from Metra trains to and from their employers.  This is another last-mile strategy in the toolkit to better serve the reverse commute market.  The reverse is an important market, one in which transit captures just 12% of commutes, compared with 42% in the traditional direction.

This is only the beginning.

Data shows us the Chicago region is a top pick for Millennials to live, largely due to our robust transit system.

Millennials are multimodal, they choose the best transportation mode (driving, transit, rideshare, bike, or walk) based on the trip they are planning to take.  They don’t just jump in a car.  And compared to other metropolitan areas (with the possible exception of New York City) Chicago is home to the highest % of Millennials living car-free.

What does that mean for us?

In Chicago, we’ve seen the development of Divvy bike share programs, Zipcare and  Lyft, Uber and other ride-share services.   And, now we have companies like Getaround and Ready Rides.  These services connect drivers whose cars are parked all day with folks who need a car during the work day—when so many cars sit idle.  Multi-modal and transit-friendly.    Prototypical examples of “necessity is the mother of invention” and a part of a multi-modal system.

We continue to invest in important areas that benefit our transit riders and region, so I’ll close with a few success stories and those on the horizon.

Downtown Chicago’s Loop Link will create dedicated bus lanes for commuters arriving at Union and Ogilvie Stations and going to Michigan Avenue.  This project is expected to increase bus reliability and improve bus travel times by 25 percent for 30,000 daily riders.

The CTA just announced it’s reintroducing rush hour express service on its Ashland and Western bus routes, a move that could save up to 22 minutes along each route.

Metra is also working for riders, as its Englewood Flyover eliminated up to 7,500 hours of Metra delays each year on the Rock Island District.

And, Pace’s Bus on Shoulder (BOS) service, developed with the RTA and IDOT, is another bright spot for public transit in the region. This allows Pace buses to ride on highway shoulders and get commuters to their destinations more quickly and on time. BOS has increased on-time performance to the mid-90% range and ridership is six times higher than before the start of the program.

All of these projects will benefit the shared-use environment as well. How? Faster, more reliable, and more frequent high-capacity transit services help convince travelers to use transit for more trips. As that happens, and as shared-use services grow to help fill the gaps transit cannot, the need for using a personal vehicle every day could be greatly reduced.

So, we continue to explore new opportunities to share mobility with different modes throughout the region to help people move around.

Shared mobility is something we work to advance—all the while keeping our eye on the ultimate goal—to continue to provide world class public transportation in a world where expectations continue to rise—along with funding challenges.

We have one of the best systems in the world and I hope that while you are downtown, you’ll take a bus or train and see for yourself the asset we are working so hard to protect for future generations.

Thank you for your time.

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