Seven of nine Chicago mayoral candidates, including incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, made the city more accessible to people with disabilities at a January 7 forum hosted by disability rights group Access Living shared a plan for Participating challenger was Kam Buckner (D-26) of Illinois. US Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago); activist Jamal Greene; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D-1st); Aldo. Sophia King (4th); her former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Paul Vallas; Aldo was absent. Roderick Sawyer (No. 6) and entrepreneur Willie Wilson.
During the forum, which was live-streamed and attended by many in person, candidates were queried on several different disability-related issues, including transportation accessibility, and specific themes emerged. and claimed that under her leadership the city had made progress in making the “L” station wheelchair accessible. Several candidates sought greater cooperation between CTA, Metra and Pace. This is what Lightfoot resisted when Cook County launched a discounted Metra fare pilot for Fair Transit South Cook, if not a full integration of the system. Candidates generally agreed that making transit stations compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act is a key priority.
Ald. Sophia King (No. 4) and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas called for greater transportation enforcement to address the surge in CTA crime during COVID-19. But Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson (D-1) argued that relying on more law enforcement to reduce violence would backtrack on a failed model, instead investing in social services. said to support.
King, whose ward includes parts of the Loop, Hyde Park, and several Near South Lakefront neighborhoods in between, said, “How inequalities in transportation distribution affect not just people with disabilities, but older people. We have seen first-hand how it affects the She cited the recent restoration of her 31st Street bus route in Bridgeport and Bronzeville as a victory for ensuring fairness in public transit. But she also mentioned one of her big drawbacks, which is that it doesn’t run on weekends. (There is also no rush hour for her services on weekday mornings, with 30-minute intervals.) King said seniors on her ward rely on buses to get to church.
King spoke in favor of consolidating the Regional Transportation Authority, CTA, Metra and Pace “under one umbrella.” However, the state law would have to be changed to make transportation one he instead of four.
Garcia just called for closer cooperation between agencies, but didn’t go that far. He was the only candidate to discuss the Metra in detail, arguing that “commuter lines are needed to better serve all areas,” and that Metra stations should be made ADA accessible by him. I mentioned the need to. The district of García has the Metra BSNF Line Western Station, which serves Pilsen and Little Village, but is currently inaccessible.
Lightfoot said the current Red and Purple modernization project on the north side would allow access to all red stations by adding elevators to the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stops. She also said the four new stations to be built as part of the long-awaited Red Line extension would be accessible, but it’s simply a matter of complying with federal law, while the aforementioned historic station was built in 1990. was excluded when the ADA was passed to New stations must be ADA compliant. Lightfoot added that she received $118 million in federal American Rescue Plans Act funding recently for CTA to make an existing station without elevators wheelchair accessible.
On the other hand, as Garcia pointed out, Metra has its own accessibility issues. Of his 68 Metra stations in the city of Chicago, 29 are not compliant with his ADA. This is usually because the platform is on an embankment and there is no ramp or elevator that passengers with mobility problems can use to get up there.
Lightfoot, Valas, Buckner, and Johnson said sidewalk improvements are also an important part of accessibility. Instead of relying on property owners to shovel snow, Johnson and Green said they would follow a proposal from Access Living and transportation advocacy group Better Street Chicago to establish a municipal sidewalk snow removal program. Buckner said the Chicago Department of Transportation will require an accessibility score to be calculated “every time you cross a bike lane or sidewalk.”
Buckner pitched Transit’s bona fides, noting that he brought the CTA to the forum. He said he wants to improve the paratransit booking system to make it easier for riders to book trips online. This has been a long-term priority for Pace, which operates all of Chicago’s paratransit services.
But the proposal to improve Metra stations and Pace services runs counter to the fact that the mayor of Chicago has less influence over suburban transportation than the CTA. The mayor of Chicago will appoint her four of her seven members of the Chicago Transportation Commission (her other three will be appointed by the governor of Illinois) to run the CTA. But the mayor of Chicago only appoints him to the Metra Commission and his one to the Pace Commission.
Johnson said he hopes to address CTA’s staffing issues, which are negatively impacting its service, by improving transit agency employee pay and benefits.
Vallas features increased oversight of CTAs as a way to encourage ridership. “It’s violence that’s hurting the CTA,” he said. “I would stop private security and hire more police. In many cases, it would cost us all, but people with disabilities would suffer the most.” Putting this proposal into perspective In February 2020, police officers in Chicago shot and seriously injured an unarmed man as police tried to detain him on an escalator at the busy Grand Red Line station for walking illegally between cars. inflicted and endangered bystanders. Access Living and the Active Transportation Alliance are calling for unarmed and well-trained transit ambassadors to replace more police officers.
Johnson argued that more policing was the wrong approach. [evidence] It is the disabled who are most likely to experience atrocities and cannot return to that state,” he said, adding that expanding social services would be more beneficial.
If elected, Green said, “we will be piloting free fares for people in underserved communities. there is,” he said.
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