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Can Chicago’s New Mayor Bring Back The Bus? Candidates To Talk Transit Plans At Mayoral Forum In Pilsen Tuesday

With bus ridership at a historic low, nine of the 15 mayoral candidates will reveal their plans to improve the city's transit.

A bus pulls up outside the new 95th Street Red Line terminal.
CTA/ Flickr
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PILSEN — With bus ridership at a historic low in Chicago, mayoral candidates will reveal their plans to improve the city’s transit at a forum Tuesday in Pilsen.

The mayoral forum will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15 at the Lozano Library, 1805 S. Loomis St. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and Mary Wisniewski, transportation reporter for the Chicago Tribune, will moderate.

The forum is free and open the public, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP beforehand. 

Nine of the 15 candidates vying for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s seat in February have confirmed attendance:

  • Dorothy Brown, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County
  • Amara Enyia, community organizer and attorney
  • La Shawn Ford, Illinois state representative (D-8th)
  • John Kozlar, attorney and former 11th Ward aldermanic candidate
  • Garry McCarthy, former Chicago Police Department superintendent
  • Susana Mendoza, Illinois Comptroller
  • Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President
  • Paul Vallas, former Chicago Public Schools CEO
  • Willie Wilson, businessman and former mayoral candidate

Bus ridership in Chicago has fallen by 26 percent since 2008 —a decline that the Chicago Transit Authority attributes to low gas prices and the growth of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Active Transportation Alliance, a transit advocacy group, also cites increased congestion and the city’s deference to cars over buses on the road as reasons for the decline.

In a bus report card, the group gave most wards and routes C’s and D’s — and low-income residents and people of color are disproportionately affected by “substandard” transit access in their area, according to the alliance.

Issues likely to be addressed at the forum include bus bunching (when buses on the same route catch up to each other, leading to longer wait times for riders), adding bus-only lanes to alleviate congestion, introducing tap-and-go payment systems to all doors to reduce the time spent at each stop, capping fares so that riders who pay as they go never spend more than $10 per day (the cost of an unlimited one-day CTA pass), and improving limited bus access on the South Side.

Active Transportation Now, a nonprofit advocacy group for public transit, and Pilsen Alliance, a grassroots activist organization, are co-hosting the Tuesday forum.

There will not be time for members of the audience to ask questions during the event, but attendees are encouraged to email any transit-related questions for the candidates to robert@activetransnow.org.

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