A northbound train at the Davis Street Metra station in Evanston.

With mass transportation still recovering from the devastating impact of COVID-19, the bus, ‘L’ and commuter rail lines in Chicagoland are launching a joint publicity campaign to remind everyone of the critical importance of transit.

Called “Forward for All,” the campaign, which was announced on Thursday, includes newspaper and digital advertising, a website and highway billboards, plus poster ads at 15 CTA and 25 Pace bus shelters, and similar posters at 19 Metra rail stations.

One of the “Forward for All” posters.

Three of those Metra stops are the stations in Evanston: Main Street, Davis Street, and Central Street.

Metra has more than 240 stops systemwide. The advertising posters will be at stations on the Union Pacific North line (which includes Evanston), and Metra Electric, which runs through South Chicago and some southern suburbs.

Why Evanston and UP North? Jessica Cabe, spokesperson for the Regional Transportation Authority, says the decision was based on “which lines had sustained higher ridership levels throughout the pandemic,” as well as having available platform advertising space and fitting into the campaign’s overall geographic footprint.

“Taken as a whole,” Cabe says, “these ads touch every corner of the region.”

Besides the title “Forward for All,” the posters and the campaign say “Our Future Rides on Transit.”

Bus, train, and ‘L’ ridership plummeted when the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago, as many commuters worked from home or were nervous about getting in a large vehicle with lots of other people.

In 2019, the last “normal” year before the pandemic, RTA-affiliated systems (CTA Bus and L, Pace Bus and Paratransit, and Metra Rail) carried 563 million passengers.

In 2021, it was only 225 million.

An RTA news release says the long-term goal of the campaign is to strengthen the public’s “trust and pride in the region’s transit system, by building awareness of the economic, environmental and quality of life benefits of public transportation.”

For example, one full Metra passenger rail car takes the equivalent of 83 vehicles off Chicago area roadways.

Transit officials realize they have serious funding, equipment and ridership challenges ahead, and future phases of the “Forward for All” campaign will, according to the RTA, address those challenges and “build support for comprehensive solutions” for the area’s mass transportation system.

For more information, go to rtachicago.org/forwardforall.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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