Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sun-Times editorial about the CTA mess

There's a lot of blame to go around as to why in November now, the CTA will be forced to raise fares and cut service on the city transit system. This editorial claimed that Mayor Daley was uninvolved, however, he did attend a rally in support of public transit in Chicago. It almost seems like that's all he did.

Anyway here are some points that I liked from it...

A world-class city such as Chicago shouldn't have a second-rate transportation system.

Other great cities have figured that out. They know it takes a wise investment and great service to get people out of their cars and into buses and trains. Our leaders still don't get it.

Mayor Daley seems strangely uninvolved on the issue. As the CTA counted down to doomsday cuts this week, he was in Paris riding a bike. Gov. Blagojevich offered a Band-aid fix Wednesday -- $24 million that will postpone those cuts until November, as long as the RTA goes along. But he still refuses to support the most realistic plan to address chronic funding problems.

The CTA has been heading toward financial disaster for several years, plagued by mismanagement and revenues that have not kept pace with costs. That's why the agency seems to be holding out its hat begging for money every year, and partly why the rail cars, tracks and buses have been falling into such a sorry state of disrepair.

There were high hopes that this would be the year for legislative help, especially after Daley replaced CTA President Frank Kruesi. He was not well-liked by lawmakers, and his replacement, Ron Huberman, has so far lived up to his reputation for management efficiency. But those high hopes were dashed on the rocks of this year's stormy legislative session.

Concerned lawmakers crafted a plan to boost transit funding with a quarter-cent increase in the regional transit sales tax and with a small increase in the real estate transfer tax in Chicago. Those increases would provide the CTA -- as well as Metra and Pace, which are also operating in the red -- with a stable funding source. The bill also would put more teeth in the RTA's oversight of the three transit agencies. That could help address some of the issues raised in a scathing federal report on last year's train derailment, such as the poor inspection of the Blue Line tracks.

The bill has so far failed, largely because the governor has threatened to veto any sales tax increase. And he has refused to offer an alternative, other than to trot out his tired and rejected plan to close what he calls "corporate loopholes."

Yeah, I don't know about the mayor but Blagojevich. He doesn't want to increase sales taxes. He seems to thrive on doing things the hard way. It doesn't matter what the reality says he just won't make the difficult choice no matter what.

Sometimes I think that's what hurts him the most. A lot of people say he won't govern and that he acts like he's still on the campaign trail. A great campaigner but a horrible governor. I wonder if insiders think he's in over his head as governor and should have stayed in Congress.

I should also note reading the Capitol Fax blog and other sources it seems people in government can't bring themselves to trust this guy. Some of this is because of how he has conducted himself as governor. I wish I could provide some better examples, I could talk about the budget mess going on in Springfield.

BTW, I want to point out this article to you. Hopefully to make this crisis more real to you. If I were a parent and had to send my child to school on public transit I would want them to get to school as rapidly as possible. Preferably with the shortest distance but I would want them to go to the best school possible in the city.

How about an excerpt...

There is no bullet train for Jaurez Johnson to travel the 12 miles from his Far South Side home to the 16-year-old's high school in Bronzeville.

Still, the 90-minute morning commute -- a combination of walking and traveling by bus -- seems almost quaint to the Dunbar Vocational Career Academy junior now that he's looking at tacking on another 20, possibly 30, minutes to the bus ride, he estimates.

That may come Monday morning, a part of the day he'll be seeing a little more of as riders across the region wait and see whether the CTA's doomsday plan kicks in. Johnson's No. X3 King Drive Express, which ferries between the South Side and school, is on the list of 39 bus routes to be axed.

"It's going to be terrible because I like to get here on time if I can," which is right around 8 a.m., Johnson said.

"Right now, it [the X3] stops every two or three stops, it stops at the main cross streets," he said.

That's not to say he can't hop a regular No. 3 King Drive bus, which also slices down King Drive between 95th and downtown but makes every stop on the route.

But that's precious time, he says.

"Before, I was getting up at 6:25 a.m. and running to the bus stop, getting there about 6:45 a.m," said Johnson, whose family lives at 121st and Princeton.

Now he'll be setting his alarm for 6 a.m., he says.

Something to ponder.

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