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Slow rebirth of aging transit system? Not yet
I really like and appreciate the ongoing coverage of our ailing transit system provided by Tribune transportation reporter John Hilkevitch. In general, you don’t hear much about transit in the mainstream press unless there is a budget or medical emergency. Hilkevitch provides ongoing, in-depth reporting. And let’s say thanks to the CTA Tattler, too!
Hilkevitch recently wrote about the renovation of CTA’s Red Line Clark/Division and Grand/State stations and the new Green Line station at Morgan. These are exciting improvements—long overdue.
But I wouldn’t go so far to say that the projects “represent the slow re-birth of aging public infrastructure” as Hilkevitch wrote. When the CTA Blue Line moves slower than an Eisenhower Expressway traffic jam because of track slow zones, you know things aren’t good.
So make no mistake, the CTA is still in trouble. The agency estimates maintenance costs of $10 billion over 5 years, but only expects to receive $3 billion for maintenance. CTA President Forrest Claypool says they have borrowed about $554 million in recent years, just to pay the bills.
And this is after some serious belt tightening at CTA. As a result, CTA will probably soon announce another round of service cuts and/or fare increases.
Bottom line: There isn’t enough money for CTA, Metra and PACE, even though transit is more important than ever to our region because of intractable traffic congestion and rising gas prices. Why? Sales tax and real estate transfer revenues that fund transit have fallen off, the CTA has to raise more money from fares than almost any other big city transit system, federal transit funding hasn’t increased, and Illinois—compared to other states with major transit systems—“flexes” very little federal “road” dollars to transit.
The failure is not with tracks, trains and buses, but with our elected leaders who have put transit on the back burner.
Let’s change that! Sign up with Riders for Better Transit and we’ll make sure your voice is heard.
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