MPC's testimony emphasizes the regional implications that CTA service cuts will have on employers, employees and residents.
- By Guest Author
- December 16, 2004
Metropolitan Planning Council Testimony
to the Chicago Transit Authority Board
December 16, 2004
MarySue Barrett, president, Metropolitan Planning Council
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is an independent, nonprofit group of business, civic and planning leaders working in the public interest to achieve policy that enhances the vitality and livability of the Chicago metropolitan region. We have been a strong and consistent supporter of increased funding for transit, because we see first hand that a well-run and adequately funded transit system is an essential requirement of a strong regional economy.
We are all here today because the region is in the midst of a transit funding crisis, initiated by the 1983 re-write of the RTA Act, which has allowed regional transit funding to trail inflation. This crisis not only impacts the CTA, but Metra and Pace as well, whose combined ask is an additional $135 million per year in operating subsidies. We expected the Regional Transportation Authority, whose main charge is budgetary oversight, to take the appropriate leadership to avoid this disaster; but unfortunately they did little to build support for the funding request to the General Assembly. The results have been in-fighting among the sister agencies and the perilous threat of dramatic service cuts.
There are several factors that have led to this crisis: the funding formula is outdated, and needs to be replaced with a formula that supports improved transit system everywhere and not based on arbitrary geography, rather than the outcomes we want the system to achieve; the lack of coordinated planning and service delivery by our regional agencies, means regional reform is urgently needed in the way we fund and make our transportation and land use decisions; and no state or regional agency has prepared a comprehensive financial plan – a necessary first step in sparking the public debate on what transportation improvements are needed and how they will be funded. These underlying issues have not been addressed, spawning a situation where we are forced toward untenable choices.
Shading all of these factors is the $55-70 million structural deficit to which the CTA’s gridlocked budget can be attributed. We agree that the way transit has been funded in this region since 1983 needs to be restructured. But this should not be done by force or threat, and requires a thorough, objective analysis by the General Assembly, whose leaders are already gearing to resolve this issue in the spring legislative session. Ongoing funding constraints have led to a 30 percent ridership loss for the CTA since 1980. If service cuts prevail, the strides that CTA has made in recent years will evaporate – and the resulting effects will cripple our regional economy, and increase roadway congestion and air pollution. We must avoid this devastating outcome.
The transit-reliant public is now at the mercy of the CTA, and it is imperative that this agency take the necessary steps to devise a temporary solution that doesn’t leave your customers “out in the cold.” Elimination of routes such as the #37 Sedgwick/Ogden bus would make it extremely difficult for West Side residents to connect to other CTA service (like the Blue Line) or to access jobs in the Loop or near North Side. Neighborhoods like Hegewisch and Eastside will be completely void of CTA service save only one weekday express route; these service cuts will impact commuters from Indiana and the south suburbs, who need to access employment opportunities in Chicago . And, just stand outside Union Station or Ogilivie Transportation Center and see how many commuters rely on CTA connections to carry them to destinations throughout the Loop . The loss of adequate, reliable and accessible transit service will strand employees, employers and residents alike.
The estimated 33.6 million annual rides that could be lost to the CTA system in 2005 – are roughly the same number that Pace carries on all 240 of its bus routes and one-half of Metra’s annual ridership. That is like Pace being eliminated and Metra riders getting a one-way ride downtown with no return service.
We urge the CTA to consider all options that might prevent service cuts. The more than one million customers who rely on the system need transportation options.
Quality transit service makes our region a more attractive place for businesses like Boeing and the BP spin-off to locate, expand jobs, and increase the livability of neighborhoods and communities. It is time that we address these regional transit and development planning issues head-on, instead of finding ourselves in crisis after crisis every decade or so. We are encouraged that the momentum is building for thoughtful and innovative solutions, and the spring legislative session will provide a forum to vet and resolve these issues. Your decision today will have lasting impacts. Thank you for your attention.