Illinois lawmakers are battling out in Springfield and Chicago the fate of Chicago-area mass transit. Despite two state bailouts, metro Chicago transit faces another crunch in January. Absent a state bailout, the Chicago Transit Authority and Regional Transit Authority would have to balance their budgets through a combination of fair hikes and service cutbacks.
Forcing CTA and RTA to become solvent is an admirable goal. But now is not the time. For the time being, millions of Chicagoans depend on mass transit for one reason or another. Thousands do not own cars, relying on mass transit to get to and from work. Many use transit services as an alternative to driving as gas prices and parking rates increase. Leaving aside the environmental and efficient benefits of a large mass transit system, Chicago mass transit could easily be called a necessary piece of the city’s infrastructure.
And Chicago’s infrastructure in that department is woefully inadequate already, compared to most other cities Chicago purports to resemble, including New York and Boston.
It is a crucial part of the economic infrastructure, transporting hundreds of thousands of people to and from work everyday, even at odd hours (ever try to catch a bus during the graveyard shift?). It is a worthwhile, and necessary, investment for the state to make.
Simply put: Chicagoans need more rail lines, more buses and more trains per hour, not less.