THE PLAN FOR SAFE AND RELIABLE TRANSIT
We cannot achieve a better Chicago without a reliable transit system that every Chicagoan can afford, and streets that deliver everyone safely.
That means shifting City Hall’s approach and perspective. A Johnson administration will make Chicago a place that is safe and reliable for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and public transit riders. If the City improves its bike infrastructure and public transit, Chicagoans will reduce the number of cars on our roads, making our city stronger and healthier. The City must also address its long legacy of disinvestment and structural racism that has created huge transportation deserts in Black communities.
The City needs new mobility, and new mobility for all Chicagoans means:
Restore and Improve the CTA
Brandon Johnson will listen to bus and ‘L’ operators, and CTA riders, to deliver accountable service. Accountability requires truth in scheduling, and fully investing in people by not simply by hiring more CTA drivers, but making sure workers’ concerns and input are heard.
Make Transit Affordable
Brandon Johnson will implement reduced or eliminated fares, allowing our seniors, Chicagoans with disabilities, and residents living below the poverty line to use the CTA without restriction.
Build Safer Streets
Brandon Johnson will invest in pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, municipal snow removal, and sidewalk and traffic-calming street improvements – and do it all through a lens of equity and inclusion.
Citywide Transportation Investment
Whether it is bus rapid transit and a system of bike grids, or securing state funding and improving city intersections to implement Vision Zero, a Johnson administration will empower City Hall and engage Chicago City Council to implement citywide transit policy.
Restore and Improve the CTA
🔵 Support sustainability and full staffing of transit operators
🔵 Publish accurate schedule information
🔵 Signal priority and bus rapid transit
🔵 Equity and responsibility in transit investment
🔵 Protecting our most vulnerable and improving safety
🔵 Bring accountability to the CTA
🔵 Improve Blue Line service to/from Forest Park
Make Transit Affordable
🔵 Free public transit for Chicago Public Schools students
🔵 Free public transit for seniors and individuals with disabilities
🔵 Affordable and accessible public transit for all
🔵 Invest in bikes for Black and Brown communities
🔵 Divvy investment and integration
🔵 Improve physical accessibility on the CTA
🔵 Finishing the Red Line extension
🔵 Special education bussing in Chicago Public Schools
Build Safer Streets
🔵 Improve biking infrastructure
🔵 Expand traffic calming features
🔵 Lower limits, more commercial regulation on residential streets
🔵 Make all neighborhoods walkable
🔵 Plow the sidewalks
🔵 Return DuSable Lake Shore Drive to the people
Citywide Transportation Investment
🔵 Expand dedicated funding for the CTA
🔵 Bring safety features under local control
🔵 Implement citywide transportation planning
🔵 Collaborate to make transportation work for everyone
Restore and Improve the CTA
The people of Chicago need and deserve a transit system that we can all rely on to go to work, school, doctor’s appointments, visit friends and family, and navigate the city safely, quickly and affordably. Transit is a public accommodation – much like our parks, schools and housing.
Support sustainability and full staffing of transit operators
In 2019, 95% of scheduled buses and trains appeared on time. That figure is now 72%. The CTA is short 650 bus operators and 150 train operators. Transit workers feel unsupported by the system. Chicago needs to hire and train new bus and train operators, and needs to pay them fairly.
The past three years have demonstrated how much we all rely on these workers. CTA employees deserve relief, better scheduling, and additional operators on trains for safety. Restoring the CTA to full staffing will make it possible to return service to pre-pandemic levels and get this system back on its feet. Brandon Johnson will work collaboratively with labor to ensure worker needs are addressed, and be a partner to provide a healthier and motivated workforce that lead to higher staffing levels and the retention critical to running a top-notch public transit system.
Publish accurate schedule information
The CTA must publish accurate information and provide real-time bus and train arrivals in transit apps to make sure every resident can accurately plan trips. There should never be a “ghost” train or bus, or anyone left on an ‘L’ platform or at a bus stop waiting for a transit that never arrives.
Signal priority and bus rapid transit
Brandon Johnson will create 500 bus priority signals that are enforceable by Municipal Code to ensure that buses do not get caught in unpredictable congestion. These sensors will prioritize buses, allowing busloads of 60 or 70 people to proceed rather than waiting at a stoplight for a handful of single-occupant cars to drive past.
Bus rapid transit (BRT) should be expanded and fully implemented across key corridors in Chicago. We need to create true BRT lines that combine dedicated bus lanes and signal prioritization with new infrastructure. True BRT systems include bus stations that allow riders to pay before they board and enable multiple riders to board simultaneously, just like CTA stations. We need to invest in infrastructure that will make buses more accessible and efficient.
Equity and responsibility in transit investment
As COVID-19 relief funding comes to an end, we must prepare the CTA, Metra and Pace for a $700 million fiscal cliff, while also investing in the restoration and renewal of public transit. Using the same commitment to transparency and accountability proposed for the City budget, a Johnson Administration will ensure that state transportation funds are used equitably for transit investments, and that agency budgeting is sound. And after engaging constructively with commuters and transportation advocates throughout the city, there will be no new taxes imposed on commuter bus or rail systems.
Protecting our most vulnerable and improving safety
A Johnson administration will increase safety by hiring new staff, restoring service levels and ending delays – especially at night – to let residents know that they can rely on the system to get them where they want to go. The first step is to get the CTA back on schedule, because when people are left standing and waiting on empty platforms or at unlit bus stops, they are more vulnerable to potential crime.
Residents should not be forced to ride trains for shelter because affordable housing is unavailable. The ultimate solution is fully resourced permanent housing through the Bring Chicago Home ordinance, which Brandon Johnson will fight for, but until that housing is available, the Johnson Administration will not support any policies that simply force people off the train. It will instead work with community-based organizations to provide more and better options to unhoused residents using the CTA as shelter.
People who are living through the trauma of homelessness need immediate housing as well as mental health and support services, so they are no longer left vulnerable on public transit. To further this goal, Brandon Johnson will engage transit ambassadors to provide first response assistance, and also expand the city’s mental health resources by passing the Treatment Not Trauma ordinance in his first 100 days in office, so that we are able to provide adequate resources to residents experiencing mental health crises on our transit system.
Bring accountability to the CTA
All of our city agencies, including the CTA, must have leadership that values accountability and transparency. Brandon Johnson will ensure that the CTA commuter board is re-engaged as an active decision-making partner and oversight body. A Johnson administration will require CTA leadership to provide accurate and regular reports on service, ridership and system improvements to the Chicago City Council. Public transit is just that – public. The CTA must be accountable to residents of the city of Chicago.
Improve Blue Line service to/from Forest Park
The CTA’s own “Meeting the Moment” data, as well as independent studies by advocacy groups, demonstrate that Blue Line service actually ran less than 70% of its scheduled trips in January. During rush hour, trains are so crowded that people with longtime waits cannot even board. This is a problem, especially since this section of the Blue Line serves primarily Black communities, as well as O’Hare Airport. Front line workers cannot get to the airport on time, and visitors are welcomed to Chicago with delays. Brandon Johnson will prioritize improving reliability in transit to and from Forest Park, as well as access for individuals living with disabilities, in fostering better service for workers and working families.
Make Transit Affordable and Accessible
As the City works to restore reliable service and full staffing to the CTA, we must also make this improved public transit more accessible to support our young people, our seniors and people with disabilities.
Free public transit for Chicago Public Schools students
As first released in the Plan for a Safer Chicago, Brandon Johnson will make public transit free for all Chicago Public School students, whether they’re on their way to school, headed downtown to the Art Institute, or going to softball practice. Our young people deserve the freedom of the city, and providing them CTA access free of charge is an investment in their daily lives and in their futures.
Free public transit for seniors and individuals with disabilities
Seniors and people with disabilities should be able to access free rides on the CTA without a complicated enrollment process. Public transportation, especially the CTA bus system, is a lifeline for seniors living on a fixed income to be able to access appointments and services to maintain their health and enrich their lives. An investment in free rides for seniors and people with disabilities is an important investment in Chicago’s communities.
Affordable and accessible public transit for all
It is time for the CTA to offer reduced fares to lower-income riders. These workers – often women and heads of household – need safe, improved and reliable access to public transportation. But they also need fewer financial burdens. Reducing fares for working families who rely heavily on public transportation, along with eliminating fares for students, will increase ridership and mass transit solvency, securing the future of public transit while increasing mobility justice for Chicago’s working families.
Invest in bikes for Black and Brown communities
The City’s failure to make bikes a part of our transportation system throughout Chicago only furthers the disinvestment and neglect that has plagued Black and Brown communities for far too long. Brandon Johnson will expand investments in free and low-cost bike programs for residents experiencing poverty or living in historically disinvested community areas.
Divvy investment and integration
The City needs to fully integrate Divvy with the transit system, so that riders can swipe their Ventra cards and know that a Divvy ride won’t cost more than a bus ride. A Johnson administration will revisit the Divvy contract to ensure it receives full investment from the City and provides a cost-effective means of transit – with a mix of electric and traditional bikes – especially in underserved and disinvested communities.
Improve physical accessibility on the CTA
While we have seen significant improvements in accessibility over the past three decades for passengers who require a step-free transit experience – due in large part to the work of disability justice advocates – the CTA is still not fully American Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible to these passengers. A Brandon Johnson administration will prioritize the CTA’s plans to make remaining train stations fully ADA accessible, and work with community partners and disability justice advocates to complete these projects sooner and with full community input. This includes improving accessibility at CTA stations with elevators.
Finishing the Red Line Extension
Generations of South Siders have grown up in a transportation desert because the system has failed to provide equitable access to Black neighborhoods on the far South Side. And though the CTA has modernized the 95th street station ‘L’ station, tens of thousands of residents are still waiting to see the CTA break ground on the Red Line expansion. After decades of promises, words are not enough. Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure federal funding for this crucial infrastructure project, and Brandon Johnson will ensure that Chicago can provide the full local match to do so, and begin local construction by 2025.
Chicago’s South Side is expansive and the Red Line extension, once it is finished, still will not address the transportation needs of many South Side residents. So we must create additional options that allow far South Side residents to travel north, south, east and west throughout the city.
Special Education Bussing in Chicago Public Schools
Brandon Johnson will encourage CPS leaders to begin planning transit for special education students and families earlier, allowing for transportation evaluations ahead of the summer, so students with disabilities are not late additions to bus routing and we can ensure proper resource allocation for the fall. Chicago Public schools should also review and revise student assignment policies so that students can be close to home, and ensure there is program coverage around the city so that once students do have transportation routes, they are not on bus routes that exceed an hour in each direction.
Build Safer Streets
There are tens of thousands of Chicagoans who use their bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, and they deserve safer streets. Further, once Chicagoans get off their bikes, buses and trains, the lack of quality sidewalks and traffic calming infrastructure make many business corridors feel unwelcome and unsafe for pedestrians. The legacy of disinvestment extends to transportation infrastructure, and for a Brandon Johnson administration, investing in people means also investing in their streets – safe streets.
Improve Biking Infrastructure
A safe bike lane is more than a stripe painted on the pavement; Chicago needs a dedicated set of streets with slow speeds and protected bike lanes to keep cyclists safe. Brandon Johnson will fully invest in biking infrastructure by expanding the city’s concrete curb bike lanes and creating a dedicated bike grid of lower-mph streets in residential areas – a network that must have a presence on the South and West sides. Any improvements in biking infrastructure must be enacted with community input, particularly from Black and Brown residents who have long dealt with a lack of transparency and engagement from city leaders around significant changes to their neighborhoods.
Chicago also needs massive free bike access for BIPOC communities below the poverty line, and Chicago Public Schools should have district-wide, school-based career and technical education programs for bike repair and bike building so the knowledge needed for underserved communities to maintain and upgrade bicycles, along with critical thinking about transit, is expanded.
Expand Traffic Calming Features
Chicago needs traffic calming features like curb extensions, pedestrian refuge islands and raised crosswalks and intersections to make pedestrians safer. The Johnson administration will add audio verbal cues for crossing streets and buses turning to increase pedestrian safety. None of these accommodations exist in a vacuum, but instead, are part of how our city needs to reimagine street safety.
Lower limits and commercial regulation on residential streets
Brandon Johnson will work with the State of Illinois to ensure speed limits are safe throughout every neighborhood, and that large commercial vehicles don’t use residential roads. We can reduce traffic violence by requiring side guards and larger mirrors, and keeping commercial vehicles on major roads.
Make all neighborhoods walkable
Long stretches of major thoroughfares, especially on the South and West sides like Pulaski, Kedzie and 130th Street, are essentially unwalkable. That means that people who want to walk from place to place are forced to find less convenient and less healthy transportation. For seniors, and people with disabilities, the lack of safe sidewalks means that they cannot traverse certain stretches of their own neighborhoods, and also limits their ability to live independently. Brandon Johnson will enforce existing provisions in the Municipal Code to improve sidewalks, and invest in sidewalks for streets that need those improvements.
Plow the sidewalks
Toronto is roughly the same geographic size as Chicago, has a similar population and climate, and funds municipal snow removal for the vast majority of its sidewalks. A Johnson administration will implement these improvements for Chicago by capitalizing on budget accountability measures to itemize snow removal expenses, and give sidewalk snow removal the same priority as streets.
Everybody deserves safe sidewalks, and we need to make sure that people who rely on public transit can get to and from their bus and train stops without climbing through snow drifts or sliding on ice. The current system is especially unfair and treacherous for seniors and people with disabilities who can’t navigate their way across untreated sidewalks, which keeps them trapped in their homes or puts them at risk of falling when they leave. The City needs to prioritize pedestrian safety and take responsibility for municipal snow clearance.
Return Du Sable Lake Shore Drive to the people
Transportation advocates count hundreds of cars running red lights on DuSable Lake Shore Drive in just a few hours. Brandon will truly keep the lakefront free and clear by investing in intersection improvements along the Drive that keep pedestrians, bikers and drivers safe.
Citywide Transportation Investment
The City needs to ensure that transit agencies spend dollars efficiently and equitably. Every user of the road and sidewalks should benefit from these expenditures, and the City should avoid using any approach that holds up traffic safety in a way that negatively and disproportionately continues to impact residents living in historically disinvested neighborhoods.
Expand dedicated funding for the CTA
The CTA must be recognized as a backbone of Chicago’s economy. Brandon Johnson will fight for major increases in state and federal funding, including dedicated federal assistance to the CTA that reflects the system’s vital importance to everyone who lives in the Chicago area.
Bring safety infrastructure under local control
The Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation recently agreed to changes that will improve pedestrian features on major roads. The City needs to build on this policy and further amend state law to bring safety features under local control.
Implement citywide transportation planning
If Chicago is going to achieve zero traffic deaths and reduce traffic crashes, improvements to bike and pedestrian infrastructure must be made at a citywide level.
Collaborate to make transportation work for everyone
Chicago’s knowledgeable and hard-working advocacy groups are too often pitted against one another or kept in silos. Brandon Johnson’s vision of comprehensive transit planning will bridge housing, accessibility, environmental justice and transit advocacy goals. All stakeholders will work together to make sure that infrastructure and transit service is improved without displacement, and while prioritizing working families and residents who need services the most.