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No public money should be spent on O’Hare Express

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A recent announcement by Mayor Emanuel has revived the idea of building an express train from O’Hare to downtown, but city leaders should proceed with caution.

The Chicago Department of Aviation recently hired an engineering/design firm to study the project and analyze potential routes, costs and construction timelines. Experts speculate the project would cost more than $2 billion and one-way fares would need to be $30 or higher to cover operating and capital costs.

The city has said it does not intend to use taxpayer dollars for the project, but it’s not being ruled out.

As described in Chicago Magazine and other local outlets, the study will need to address questions about how the express train would operate compared to current Blue Line service and whether or not it could attract enough riders to justify its significant costs.

It’s also important to analyze where this project fits in among the region’s many public transit needs.

Privately funded express service to O'Hare would be an upgrade to our transit system, but public dollars should be spent on higher priority projects that benefit the many Chicagoans who lack access to jobs and other critical destinations.

Read more about our position and how other advocates view the project in the Chicago Reader.

We should focus on connecting the spokes in our hub-and-spoke transit system to better serve neighborhoods outside the Loop. Extending existing rail lines and giving buses priority on our streets with dedicated lanes would be more efficient investments that carry greater benefits for residents.

Our Transit Future campaign with the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and continued advocacy to expand the city’s bus rapid transit network are both focused on achieving these goals. Transit Future Campaign Director Jacky Grimshaw agrees building an O'Hare Express should not be the region's top transit priority.

“Make the Blue Line better—more trains and make it a faster trip,” Grimshaw recently told Crain'sputting the express idea in the nice-to-have rather than the have-to-have category. 

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