I’d like to hear this announcement on my train one day: “Your attention please: CTA and Metra are stuck while waiting for leadership from our elected leaders.” I say this because government funding and land use policies give transit a back seat to roads and highways, and as a result only 9 percent of all trips in the Chicago region are made by transit.
Because of persistent underfunding, proposed fare increases on multi-day passes by CTA and Metra (and Metra increased fares 30 percent across the board last year) only allow the agencies to maintain their inadequate service. CTA buses are slow, and many people don’t live near a CTA or Metra train station or can’t get where they need to go by train.
With high gas prices and clogged roads, people want more transit options. Instead, CTA will provide 16 percent less bus service and 4 percent less train service in 2013 compared to 2009, and riders will pay more for it under CTA’s proposed budget.
These problems contribute to CTA’s lagging ridership in comparison to peer cities. For example, CTA ridership declined 4 percent between 1991 and 2010, while New York City’s increased 57 percent and Washington DC’s increased 24 percent.
The public might support large fare increases if the CTA and Metra delivered more options for current and new riders. For example, people want the Red Line extension, a network of Bus Rapid Transit routes in Chicago and the suburbs that operate like trains, more frequent service on Metra trains, and bus service restored to 31st Street and Lincoln Ave in Chicago.
Some long overdue progress is being made for sure, such as station and track repairs, bus and train tracker systems, new and refurbished vehicles, and real dedicated bus lanes on the Jeffrey Jump route and, in 2014, through the Loop. But the Chicago region won’t get a top notch transit system unless our elected officials give transit its fair share of transportation funding. CTA and Metra deserve credit for making the most of a bad situation, but transit riders are disappointed that our region cannot yet deliver the world class system we need.
Do your part to improve Chicagoland transit by supporting Riders for Better Transit. Sign up to receive updates and learn about ways to get involved. Also, you can help by telling your elected officials that you've had enough of the fare hikes and service cuts.