Accelerate Illinois could fund additional infrastructure improvements.
Published monthly, MPC’s Talking Transit provides updates about transit-related activities around the world.
Get In the Loop on all the latest local, national and international transit headlines.
Did you know?
New Ill. Gov. Bruce Rauner announced last week that the state’s difficult budgetary environment, brought on in part by a slow rate of economic growth and a failure to maintain the income tax at last year’s levels, requires Illinois to cut funding for numerous programs, from Medicaid to universities to transit. Gov. Rauner’s budget proposal recommends cutting state aid for the Chicago metropolitan area’s Regional Transportation Authority—which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace—by $127 million and reducing aid to downstate transit operators by $70 million.
This budget plan, which would cut state funding from Chicago region transit operations by about 23 percent compared to fiscal year 2015 levels, is simply an initial proposal and will undergo significant review by the state legislature over the coming months.
The need for operations funding—and investment in our infrastructure
The Northeastern Illinois transit system is an essential element of the state’s transportation network. Not only do Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace buses and trains carry more than 1.7 million daily riders—more than the population of 77 of Illinois’ 102 counties, combined—but they shuttle a large majority of workers into Chicago’s Loop, the nation’s second-largest business district and the state’s economic powerhouse. Cutting funding for daily operations needs for transit would be a big mistake.
Moreover, the state must also find ways to support expanded investment in our transportation infrastructure. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) found that the Chicago region invests about a quarter less in transit capital needs now than it did twenty years ago—before adjusting for population change. State gas tax revenues per capita are down more than a third since 1991, when the Illinois per-gallon gas tax was last adjusted.
The result is that people in Illinois are suffering from increasing congestion, slow transit and too many daily transportation woes—all of which add up to reduced quality of life and a constricted economy. Over the past few months, MPC surveyed hundreds of Illinoisans through an interactive mobile app and found that fully half were frustrated with the transportation system on a daily basis. Another third experienced problems at least once a week. Inadequate infrastructure spending is producing potholes, weight-restricted bridges and ineffective transit, and those problems are degrading peoples’ lives.
The need to invest is hardly restricted to Illinois, but other states are choosing to invest to address the situation.
On the same day that Gov. Rauner made his budget address, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a five-year, $10 billion transportation investment plan that would increase state transportation support by more than 70 percent over current levels. By 2020, most of that state’s new investments will be in transit: Upgrades are planned for the New Haven Line of the Metro North Railroad, the nation’s most-frequented commuter line, along with improvements for the Shore Line East and the Hartford Line, which extend east and north from New Haven, respectively.
Connecticut is hardly alone; states across the nation are leaving Illinois in the dust on investing in transportation. Since 2012, 12 states, from Maryland to Wyoming, have increased their gas taxes to fund maintenance and upgrades to transportation systems.
Accelerate Illinois to address our state’s transportation infrastructure needs
MPC is leading a coalition of local and national stakeholders—including AARP, the Active Transportation Alliance, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Transportation for Illinois Coalition—to emphasize the importance of strengthened transportation infrastructure investment in our state. The Accelerate Illinois campaign, which launched earlier this month, builds off the work MPC already completed as part of the Illinois gubernatorial transition to encourage state government to invest in infrastructure.
Accelerate Illinois’ message is clear: We need to shore up our transportation system to address the problems that too many people experience on an almost daily basis. MPC and our partners will be sharing this message with lawmakers over the course of this legislative session, which is expected to wrap up in early summer. We invite you to join us as well at AccelerateIllinois.com.