THE TRANSIT RIDERS' AUTHORITY

PO Box 529

Chicago, IL 60690

312 725-0872

tra@transit.chicago.il.us

http://transit.chicago.il.us/


SMARTER TRANSIT PLANNING & OPERATION NEEDED.
WISER TAX POLICY COULD HELP, TOO.


I am Chuck Metalitz, a member of The Transit Riders' Authority. TRA is a nonprofit educational organization of transit users, focused on the benefits of good transit service.

I recognize that service costs money. Maybe more money should be spent on transit. But I think, first, we need to stop wasting the money we do spend. Intelligent planning and operation could improve service without increasing budgets.

Consider an example that directly affects the south suburbs. There's a plan to extend the Red Line to 130th Street. It would cost over a billion dollars. It would certainly make rapid transit service more accessible to South Cook residents if CTA and Pace can find the money to operate it and the necessary bus connections.

But we, the taxpayers, already spent the greater part of $1 billion in recent years to upgrade the cars, track, and stations on the Metra Electric. Let's take advantage of what we already have. For a small fraction of the Red Line Extension cost, Metra service could be improved and coordinated, and fares reduced, so riders could use Pace buses, Metra Electric, and CTA buses if needed, to travel quickly, inexpensively, and with minimal waiting time.

CTA's planning process for the Red Line extension did not consider this possibility.

Currently it costs $6 for a single Metra ticket between here, Calumet, and downtown Chicago. There's only one train per hour outside of rush hour, with no evident coordination between Metra and Pace schedules. It's not surprising that Metra Electric ridership dropped 28% in just 17 years.

This problem of unwise expenditure and uncoordinated operation isn't limited to the south suburbs, either. On the north side of Chicago, CTA wants $320 million to build a flyover at Clark Junction, which may cut delays there but worsen them at other locations along the Red, Brown, and Purple lines. Several better options are available but not receiving consideration.

Even in day-to-day operation, the transit providers seem unable to coordinate schedules. We the taxpayers fund transit for us the customers, and we do not see much effort among those we fund to help us get value for our money.

I could go on for a long time detailing ways transit in this region is poorly-planned and poorly-managed, but will leave that for another time. I am aware that transit projects here are largely funded with grant money, and a thoughtful State administration may need to negotiate with Federal people to make the grants fit the needs. And, even with wise planning and alert management, good transit probably would require more money. So I'll just leave two suggestions about where those funds might come from:

  1. Study after study has shown that transit adds to property values. Smart funding mechanisms find a way to capture some of this value to help pay the cost of the transit which creates it.
  2. Illinois gives special tax breaks, not to farmers, but to farmland owners. (Most of the farmland in this state is tenant-farmed.) If that land were taxed at the same percentage of value that homeowners and business owners pay, well over a billion dollars annually would be generated for municipalities, schools, and other local governments. That could free up state money for transportation infrastructure.




Statement prepared for use at IDOT "Listening Session", East Hazel Crest, May 7, 2015

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