Mayoral runoff candidates want more bike and bus lanes

Both mayoral candidates who advanced to an April runoff agree that the city needs to do more to promote biking, walking and public transportation.

Active Transportation NOW sent a questionnaire to the 14 people running for mayor about a range of transportation issues. Nine candidates responded, including the final two candidates: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot.

Active Transportation Alliance Executive Director Ron Burke reacted to the first round results in a statement: “The next mayor can reduce traffic crashes and ease congestion by making it easy and affordable to get around without owning a car or riding alone in for-hire vehicles. We are optimistic both candidates would embrace a transportation vision focused on health, sustainability and equity given their stated support for strategies like bus lanes, a Chicago River Trail on the south and north sides, and a discounted transit fare for low-income riders."

Following is a summary of the candidates’ positions based on the questionnaire responses and public statements. Active Transportation NOW does not endorse mayoral candidates. Our goal is to educate candidates and voters about the city’s transportation needs and build support for improvements.

Runoff candidate responses

LORI LIGHTFOOT

Lori Lightfoot supported all 10 policy ideas and added extensive comments to many of the questions. She has published a transportation plan with many of the same priorities. She says her administration would establish a proposed $20 million fund for infrastructure improvements on the city’s highest crash corridors, most of which are located in disinvested neighborhoods on the West and South Sides.

Lightfoot’s plan embraces a Complete Streets approach to street design that considers the safety of all road users and incentivizes people to walk, bike and ride transit. She says progress on safe streets has slowed in recent years and she will “redouble Chicago’s efforts,” citing declines in the number of bump-outs, enhanced crosswalks and bike lanes relative to peer cities

She pledges to examine a “fair fare” in her first term as mayor and proposes free public transit for qualifying CPS students to “create a new generation of transit users.” She supports constructing “full bus rapid transit (BRT) lines with prepaid boarding, raised platforms and dedicated lanes,” including a compromise plan on Ashland Avenue that allows for more left turns.

Lightfoot says she supports creating a new transit corridor with its own dedicated lanes as part of the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive, but “the devil is in the details” and she would commission a traffic impact study.

TONI PRECKWINKLE

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle referenced her record on multimodal transportation in pledging support for eight of the 10 proposed policies. President Preckwinkle led the development of the county’s first long-range transportation plan in decades. The plan prioritizes public transit while recognizing the value of walking and biking.

Preckwinkle is unwilling to support a Chicago Bike Walk Fund of $20 million because she’s “hesitant to pre-determine dollar amounts in budgets.” She says she fully understands the importance of multimodal transportation and may dedicate $20 million, or more, to biking and walking.

Preckwinkle does not support creating dedicated bus lanes on North Lake Shore Drive, preferring “managed” lanes that would allow “a variety of transportation alternatives and transit, including buses.” Preckwinkle says studies and models have shown that, given the proximity of the Red Line, little new ridership would be gained by converting a travel lane to transit.

Active Transportation Alliance was joined by nine civic and community-based organizations (including Sierra Club Illinois, Friends of the Parks, Lakeview Chamber of Commerce) in calling on the project team to create a dedicated corridor for transit. The coalition objects to the models that have suggested limited ridership growth potential and is concerned managed lanes would become congested over time – limiting the speed and reliability benefits for buses.