Chicago Sun-Times

Transportation Freedom Day

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Today is the day the typical Chicago-area household has earned enough to cover transportation costs for a year, according to the Illinois Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. New findings by IPIRG show a typical Chicago family pays about two months of their salary to pay for transportation costs -- a bigger chunk of the budget than food or health care. In far outer-ring suburbs like Plainfield which are dependent on cars, households spend nearly three months of their yearly income to get around.

Both IPIRG and CNT want more money spent on public transit, to bring down those costs so people could some of that transit money for paying for groceries. Or college. The American Public Transportation Association figures that a driver in Chicago could save $10,491 annually by switching to public transit.

Illinois is getting $414 million in funding for transit from the Recovery Act, and another $935 million in flexible "Surface Transportation Program" funding. "We encourage Gov. Quinn to use as much flexible transportation funding as possible on public transit," said Alexandra Lozanoff for IPIRG.

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I'm not upset to see that CTA cars have lasted 30 years and is still working. Rolling stock is infrastructure, it's supposed to last for 50 or 75 years. New trains will add nothing of value; we need better rail maintenance and the upgrade of all slow zones to normal speed zones.

I don't believe there are any CTA stations used by as few as 200 people a day, but every "under-used" station represents a capital improvment with long term benefits. Well lit stations are an important neighborhood asset, especially if the neighborhood has "gone down". They make it more desireable and bring people back. They need to be there when the area "comes back". Remember when they shut down the North Avenue and Grand stations? About 18 months later both neighborhoods took off. Thank goodness they didn't tear them down. We'd be paying to build them from scratch.

Now, regarding that flexible surface transportation funding... Is anyone considering re-introducing street cars? It's proven technology; the city probably retains the right of way from the old, dismantled system; and it might be a good way to integrate less densely populated neighborhoods with the El lines.

I enjoy this column; keep up the good work.

Joe Hanc

Part of the problem with CTA (which all of the problems are CTA) is the false assumption of a valid time schedule; When trains are late, they randomly go express to catch up, and when they're early, they sit around for 5 minutes while riders yell expletives in the drivers direction. ELIMINATE THE SET SCHEDULE! Run trains every however many minutes depending on time of day and stop having this whole thing like "This train is scheduled to arrive at 9:43am, but we're here at 9:48, let's skip 5 stops!" which just angers everyone.

The second primary problem is THE TRAINS ARE FROM THE 1970S!!!!
To pay for track maintenance for trains we don't want to ride. CTA needs to be more diligent in removing drunks, homeless people, miscreants, and anyone who will urinate or defecate in a CTA train. Also to save money from turnstyle jumpers, they could employ a system similar to England, where your train pass is needed to get in AND OUT.

Just a few suggestions before they decide to spend 100 million on a station that 200 people use a day, instead of maybe BUYING NEW TRAINS!

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on March 5, 2009 5:29 PM.

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