Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Daley Offers No Alternative to CTA Fare Hikes

Mayor Daley says that the proposed CTA fare hikes and service cuts are "very ugly", but offers no alternative or solution to the the agency's budget problems.

Strange- Da Mare had the funds ($86 Million) to buy the Michael Reese hospital property to be redeveloped as the Olympic Village, but can't find the funds for one of the city's most essential services?

Daley has always considered the CTA to be something of a "frill", and now that the Olympic Games are off the table, he has no interest in repairing or expanding Chicago's once-excellent service, thus condemning our city to second-tier status in the future. There has even been talk of cutting Owl service, which would put at least another 50,000 cars on the streets and put Chicago on the same steep downhill path as other formerly great Midwestern cities such as St. Louis and Detroit, both of whom deteriorated rapidly after all-night transit was eliminated. In St. Louis, the last "owl" ran in 1965, and what had been a gentle glide downhill became a cliff dive into depopulation, disinvestment, and poverty.

Daley was originally opposed to free rides for seniors, but now has nothing to say about this absurdity, and there is no discussion of raising the city's funding contribution to the agency to reflect inflation since the early 80s. Now that we won't need to spend $500 Million or more on costs related to the Games, could we direct some of the TIF slush funds towards our essential services? Our transit, our police department, our schools, and our essential sewer and water infrastructure are in tatters. We need to be replacing 80-year-old water mains, we need to put more police on the street, and we badly need improved transit and to get those improvements in place before the next round of gasoline price hikes, which are coming very soon, and which may come sooner than anyone was figuring if oil ceases to be denominated in the dollar.

While Chicago's transit and that of other large cities is starving, it's competition, auto transit, is more lavishly funded than ever, and at the expense of our largest cities and their needs. Over 60% of the road-building stimulus money being doled out by the Feds is being allocated to the most lightly populated areas of the country to build unnecessary highways. Why are these funds being so allocated? 65% of this country's population lives in the 100 largest urban areas, and 75% of the country's economic activity takes place in them, yet our tax money is being allocated for mega-highways through semi-desert wastes with the lowest population densities in the country. This has been the funding pattern for the past 60 years, to the great destruction of Chicago and other cities.

Chicago is one of the country's largest net taxpayers, behind only NYC and Los Angeles, yet ranks near-to-last in federal givebacks. In other words, we are being taxed to fund mega-highways and heroic water diversion projects in the middle of the Big Nowhere, the better to lure millions of denizens out of livable Midwestern cities to mega-cities in the middle of the high desert that are bound to fail catastrophically as water problems deepen and as the massive water infrastructure becomes impossible to maintian in a fuel-short future- while our services deteriorate and our city, which is one of the world's greatest metropolises, is decimated to pay for all of that. And electing a Chicago machine politician as our president has not helped us get our share.

It's time to get our share of the tens of billions of dollars, or at least get benefits that equal the taxes we send to Washington on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Same thing goes for the State of Illinois- why is the state's largest city treated like a poor, unwanted cousin in Springfield? We need to demand the end of free senior fares and demand that our state and city governments give us something of value in return for our taxes- and adequately fund and manage conscientiously this essential service.

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