Calling Springfield legislators’ inability to pass a transit funding package “a recipe for disaster,” Mayor Richard M. Daley led a rally in support of mass transit Tuesday in downtown Chicago.
Mr. Daley was joined by transit leaders and elected officials who sweated together onstage under the midday sun outside the James R. Thompson Center while urging the General Assembly and Gov. Rod Blagojevich to forge an agreement on a transit funding package that has been under discussion for months in Springfield.
“We’re here to challenge Springfield to fundamentally reform the way public transit is funded in our state,” Mr. Daley said.
A crowd of often-vociferous demonstrators, led by groups of sign-waving union members, loudly cheered nearly every utterance from Mr. Daley.
“If Springfield doesn’t act, Chicagoans of every background will pay the price” in increased traffic and greater pollution, said Mr. Daley, his voice rising with the howls and claps of approval.
About a dozen other speakers, including House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, and Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias took their turns at the microphone.
The Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace are facing a combined operating budget shortfall in the neighborhood of $200 million that they say could force them to raise fares and cut service within weeks.
The CTA has said it will be forced to hike cash rail fares by 50%, to $3 from $2, cut 39 bus routes and lay off about 700 workers, nearly all of them union members. Those actions will take effect Sept. 16 unless the agency receives a bailout from Springfield, the CTA has said.
2 days ago