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New report: Mayor’s mobility task force is thinking ahead

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Test scooters, prepare for autonomous vehicles, share more data.

The mayor wraps up a press conference on the new transportation task force.
Chicago Mayor’s office / Twitter

Chicago’s transportation system runs pretty smoothly. It’s reliable, mostly modernized, and more people are using the L, buses and Metra. It’s the mayor’s pride and joy,

“By the way, our on time arrivals, I used it today, is 97 percent. And New York is 54 percent,” the mayor boasted at a Thursday press conference announcing a new transportation task force. “Not that I’m competitive. But I want you to know that.”

Over the past six months, the 20 member task force worked on developing a report with recommendations for the city’s future. The mayor-appointed group is chaired by former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The task force looked at current challenges within Chicago’s network of transportation systems—from public transit accessibility concerns to frustrations with ride-hailing services. Members also discussed changes in the industry such as scooters, bike-share services, driverless vehicles, and the growth of freight delivery.

“In 2011, we were not discussing dockless bikes or bike sharing, we weren’t discussing ride share versus taxis, scooters versus electric bikes and we definitely were not discussing driverless vehicles,” said the mayor at the news conference. “All of that is just in eight years and it’s not going to slow. I can guarantee you, it’s going to accelerate.”

The task force set a list of seven recommendations to support and elevate Chicago’s transit goals. They include:

Streamline governance and management of transportation systems and policies within and across departments, agencies and private sector;

Develop uniform, detailed and secure data sharing requirements between public and private entities;

Support investments in transportation infrastructure to meet mobility goals;

Encourage shift to right-sized capacity and increased passenger mile efficiency;

Build an accessible, affordable, and convenient multi-modal transportation system;

Advance a transportation and mobility system that promotes the environmental health and sustainability and improves overall livability of the city; and

Prepare Chicago for connected and automated vehicles.

Some of the other task force report recommendations include increasing the gas tax, developing long-term transit funding streams, create a uniform data-sharing network, launching studies of autonomous vehicle impact, ensuring sidewalks are accessible, conducting a scooter pilot program in 2019, and reducing the use of single-occupancy vehicles.

There will be more to come on how the city plans to implement these recommendations, as the incoming mayor may select which actions to take. However, with all that’s changed in the past eight years, and all that will change—the city could benefit from establishing a Chief Mobility Officer. Creating this position and designating a person who only thinks about how the city’s transit could run more efficiently and cohesively would help every resident.

For a more detailed look at the list of task force members and their months of research which supports over 50 proposed actions for the city, review the full report online.