Mobility. It’s in our nature to move and these days we have more options than ever to take us from point A to point B. People now have a plethora of options ranging from public transportation or personal vehicles to bike-sharing or ride-hailing. Technological advances have created a new mobility ecosystem where you can open up your phone and see when the next bus or train is coming and then use a ride hailing app to get you to your nearest bus stop or train station.
But, more mobility options have some unintended consequences. In a region already infamous for traffic congestion, congestion has gotten worse due to the addition of ride-hailing services on our streets. That doesn’t mean they’re can’t be complementary to transit in less dense, suburban areas, addressing first and last mile connection challenges. In Invest in Transit, our five year strategic plan, we address how public transportation can work within this new ecosystem.
First and foremost, we as a region should focus on investing in the success of our transit system.
We know that mass transit in our region provides many key benefits: It provides societal benefits, like affordable transportation to jobs, support for walkable communities, and improvement to regional air quality. Transit is efficient at moving a lot of people at a low cost per rider, which is good for the local economy. And transit is the most convenient travel option in many locations.
Our transit operators provide many types of services across the region with a wide range of benefits to make different riders. For example, CTA bus and rail carry a lot of people in dense urban areas like downtown Chicago. Transit provides a lot of benefits in these areas. On the other hand, some of our most costly modes, such as ADA Paratransit, are operationally challenging and have more customized service.
Our work with private mobility services will be tailored accordingly. In CTA service areas we need to regulate private mobility services and their use of curb space, in order to make sure that they do not interfere with transit operations. In suburban areas where many of our dial-a-rides are operating, we may benefit from contracted or complementary services provided by the private sector. Such arrangements may be more convenient for customers and less expensive to operate.
The issue is complex but we are confident that during the plan process we have mapped out some principles for adapting our work while also ensuring that transit is successful into the future. The Transit Agencies in our region will continue to make investments in successful transit, while also exploring partnerships in areas where transit is less effective or very expensive to operate.