Save public transit in Illinois

Copy and forward to anyone who might be interested - now is the best time to call elected officials on this.

Public transit in Illinois has been chronically underfunded for decades. The cost of providing transit has risen sharply in the last 20 years, but the governor and General Assembly have consistently refused to provide the needed funds. As a result, the RTA (composed of Illinois's transit agencies, the CTA (El and buses), Metra, and Pace) has been forced to mortgage its future by dipping into maintenance funds to pay operating costs.

The predictable result has been decaying infrastructure and aging equipment, leading to declining levels of service and a looming crisis for the transit system. Without emergency funding, the RTA will implement fare increases and service cuts this year. Without a major increase in longterm financing, funding crises will continue to erupt every year.

Public transit *should* be the future of urban transportation. Cars foul the air and kill or injure thousands of people every year. They waste huge amounts of public space with parking lots, gas stations, and highways. Worst of all, they are one of the main causes of global warming, which will have devastating consequences if we don't address it soon.

The best way to solve the transit crisis is to raise the tax on gasoline. The low price of gas does not reflect the immense social and environmental damage caused by driving. Raising the gas tax and spending the money on transit would fund the creation of a world-class public transit system, and it would give people the incentive to use it. This solution has already drawn support from groups like Chicago Metropolis 2020, a coalition of businesses.

However, transit funding faces the continuing indifference of Governor Blagojevich and the General Assembly. A wide range of groups has recently begun a pressure campaign to save transit in Illinois. Now is the time to add your voice:

call Blagojevich at 217-782-0244 or 312-814-2121, and leave a comment at http://www.illinois.gov/gov/contactthegovernor.cfm

call your state legislators - find them at http://www.civicfootprint.org

and remember to voice your support for an increase in the gas tax.

More information:

Opponents of transit have often claimed that the RTA does not need more money, it just needs to be more efficient. An independent audit by the Illinois auditor general ought to put these claims to rest. The report not only emphasizes the severe and longstanding underfunding of public transit, it finds that in comparison with other American transit agencies the RTA scores average or better in measures of efficiency. It scores lower than average in service effectiveness - mainly because its equipment is much older than that of its peer agencies. (http://www.auditor.illinois.gov/Audit-Reports/Performance-Special-Multi/Performance-Audits/07-Mass-Transit-NE-IL-Perf-Exec-Summary.pdf pp. 14-21)

Other critics have questioned the priorities of the CTA and the Daley administration, which have fast-tracked expansion projects like the Circle Line and airport express that are useful to already well-served professionals, while ignoring expansion proposals for underserved communities, like the Mid-City Transitway and extensions of the Red, Orange, and Yellow lines. These complaints are well-founded - see http://razetheladder.blogspot.com/2007/02/paving-over-mid-city-transitway.html for details. However, adequate funds for existing services must be maintained even as we pressure the Daley administration to expand the system in the fairest and most effective way.

More information on the transit crisis and ways to get involved:

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