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Chicago’s first protected bike lane on Kinzie St. increased ridership by 55 percent without increasing traffic congestion for cars.

Raise the gas tax to fund transit and street improvements

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Politicians in Illinois and across the country love talking about the need to “fix our crumbling infrastructure” and invest in our roads, bridges and transit systems so we can create jobs, strengthen our regional economy and help people get around safely.  

When the conversation moves to how to raise the necessary revenue through tax and fee increases, however, leaders too often sprint to the sidelines.

Thankfully, in Illinois we now have a reasonable and well-researched revenue proposal to hold our leaders accountable.

Last week the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) unveiled a proposal to raise $43 billion for Illinois’ transportation infrastructure over 10 years by increasing the gas tax by 30 cents per gallon and increasing vehicle registration fees by 50 percent.

MPC consulted agency leaders and experts from around the state while developing the proposal. Active Trans has endorsed the proposal and we’re working with MPC and other advocates to carry the message to state legislators and the governor’s office.

Of the $43 billion in statewide need, the greatest portion — $12 billion — is for transit in the Chicago region so CTA, Metra and Pace can continue to serve the growing number of residents choosing to ride transit.

These numbers sound lofty, but MPC has some excellent resources breaking down why this revenue is needed, where it would go and what it would mean for the average Illinois family.

Illinois hasn’t raised its gas tax since 1991 and it’s not even indexed to inflation. With gas prices so low, states throughout the Midwest and across the country are passing gas tax increases to make up for decades of inaction. At least 23 states have raised new funding for transportation since 2012.

Many advocates rightfully argue that these funding increases should come with long overdue policy reform so state funds are allocated based upon performance metrics. A revenue increase that only results in more money for sprawl-inducing highway expansion would be a disaster, which is why we need to continue to protect and grow transit funding, and invest in road projects that prioritize people walking and biking.

The first step to long-term progress is having an honest conversation about how much money is needed and putting forth specific proposals for raising it. MPC’s plan is an excellent start.

Share information about the proposal online using #43billion and join our advocacy list for opportunities to contact your state legislators about the state’s transportation funding crisis.

Graphic Credit: MPC