When City Council adopted the Evanston Strategic Plan on March 27, 2006, among the goals was one related to transportation:

“Goal Six: Coordinate and influence transportation resources to provide an improved system that is safe, integrated, accessible, responsive, understandable, efficient, and meets the needs of all people.”

One objective was to complete a multi-modal transportation plan, which the City did and approved in April 2009. Section 11 of the plan covers “Transit” and includes Bus (CTA, Pace), Rail (CTA, Metra) and Other Transit (private service providers, NorthShore University HealthSystem and Northwestern University).

In recent weeks much has been published about upgrades to the CTA’s aging elevated transit system. Four public meetings were held to gather input from those residents who would be most affected by proposed service changes to the Red and Purple train lines.

The scoping meeting for Evanston residents was at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, which is a fine facility – except for its poor access to public transit. A schedule conflict prevented this reporter from attending the meeting, and the CTA’s selection of this site was baffling.

At a recent 9th Ward meeting, City officials reiterated their commitment to keeping the Foster Street and South Boulevard el stations open. The CTA said that the six modernization alternatives are concepts and that none of the six elevated stations suggested for removal are set for closure. The agency further stated that public feedback from the scoping meetings will be incorporated into proposed plans.

From a transit rider’s viewpoint, the key commitment needed to maintain public transit at current levels is from the community itself. With the tough economy of the past few years, there is one certainty: Business and government will look to the bottom line. If a service has poor usage, it could be slated for cuts.

Some of Evanston’s condominium projects of the past decade were tied to transit-oriented development and creating walkable neighborhoods connected to a train line. The idea was to reduce the need for driving and burning fossil fuels.

Also known as Transit Oriented Design (TOD), it would establish compact, pedestrian friendly communities located near high quality train systems. With both Metra and CTA lines, Evanston residents could enjoy a higher quality of life without complete dependence on a car for mobility and survival.

Evanstonians need to wrap their minds around the notion that using public transit is a vital step toward sustainability. Walking and biking are important, but especially during inclement weather, public transit is a viable mode for getting around town.

For example, the Friday after Blizzard 2011 this reporter had a doctor’s appointment. No worries about getting a car from an alley or parking lot onto the street because she uses CTA bus (#201). She rode it along Ridge Ave. north to downtown Evanston, then along Chicago Ave./Sheridan Rd. to Central St. Then the bus traveled west along Central Street to Ridge Avenue and the entrance to Evanston Hospital.

The reverse route took less than an hour with a total fare of $2.25 (using CTA Transit Card). No driving or parking hassles and, save a hundred feet or two, the ride provided door-to-door service.

Fellow Evanstonians, please leave your cars at home for some errands around town. Taking the bus or the el either round-trip or one-way (walking back home in good weather) not only will open new views of our beautiful city, but will also offer health benefits.