A new report released Tuesday shows public transportation in the Chicago area falls short when accommodating older adults and people living with disabilities.
In “Toward Universal Mobility: Charting a Path to Improve Transportation Accessibility,” researchers at the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) found numerous challenges in the region’s fragmented system. They include unfinished sidewalks, insufficient accessible features, inability to hear instructions and inefficient trips among others.
“We heard stories about people being stranded on train platforms because they didn’t have real time information about elevators or escalators being out of service,” said Audrey Wennink, MPC transportation director.
She said the good news is that the Chicago region has an extensive public transit system, but the bad news is that there’s not a lot of coordination with various state and local departments.
According to the report: “Services may be operated by a municipality, township, county, or at a regional level. The hours of service vary depending on the operator or location. Rider eligibility rules vary widely and trip purpose requirements are not standardized. Fare structures and reservation policies also change depending on where the rider lives, or where their destination might be.”
The report gives 32 recommendations, offering guidance for private companies providing paratransit and ridesharing services and public transit agencies like the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace.
“Our chief recommendation is a regional mobility coordinator so our services can be more coordinated and riders can use the existing system with a better experience,” Wennink said.
In addition to improving service coordination, MPC also recommends: providing more information to help individuals navigate the system; engaging ridesharing services to increase their accessibility; updating technology to enhance customer satisfaction; assessing the conditions of sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure; providing sufficient resources to make all CTA and Metra rail stations accessible; and empowering people with disabilities to advocate for change.
The report says the goal for the region is “universal mobility,” which means people at any age, with or without a disability, can access transportation. As the senior citizen population continues to grow, even more people will have disabilities.
While 7% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 in the six-county Chicago region have disabilities, the share of residents with disabilities among those 65 years and older is 33%, the report states. “This includes visual, hearing and cognitive impairments, as well as disabilities affecting mobility.”