Gov. Quinn to CTA Riders: Lower Fares More Important than Useful Service

(Graphic: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s 2010 CTA transit map?)

I guess it must be something in the water. But as usual, another Illinois politician has decided that Chicagoans would rather have lower fares than useful transit service. Yesterday in Crain’s, Greg Hinz reported that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had brokered a deal to stop a 2010 CTA fare hike. (See also today’s Clout Street.) My question is: who asked him to?

Back in October, when the CTA announced yet another potential funding doomsday, the stakes were worse than usual. Instead of choosing between raised fares or drastic service cuts, because of a 30% loss in public funding stemming from the bad economy, Chicagoans were about to be faced with raised fares and $90 million in drastic cuts in transit service. Among those cuts: an almost 10% reduction in ‘L’ service, and a whopping almost 20% reduction in bus service.

(How bad are the cuts? In just one example of the hardship about to happen, if you live along Division Street–or several other Windy City main thoroughfares–you’d better get used to taking cabs after eight o’clock in the evening. See for yourself in these PDFs: proposed route reductions, proposed hour reductions.)

According to Hinz, sometime this week Quinn and the CTA are set to announce a deal to freeze Chicago’s transit fare potentially through 2011. The cost of freezing the fare? Going through with those $90 million in service cuts. Meaning, Chicagoans might be able to afford transit service for the next two years, they just might not be able to find it on a nearby street corner, at a useful hour, or even at all.

Obviously the erstwhile Chicagoan Gov. Quinn isn’t a CTA transit rider and hasn’t been for some time. Maybe he’s forgotten how this city relies on the CTA for getting around at all hours to all corners of town. His impending deal to protect 9-to-5 work trips at the expense of overall convenience is an ill-considered one.

Quinn’s reasoning is as old as it is political. He probably thinks he’ll get more votes by telling Chicagoans, “Look, I saved you money.” Too bad by the time the election rolls around, CTA riders will have figured out the hassle Quinn’s great favor did them.

The real question is: which is more damaging to the economic health of Chicago? Paying $3 to ride a 9:00 PM CTA bus when a Jewel clerk needs to get to his overnight job or a midnight Orange Line train when a businesswoman needs to get to Midway for that last plane out, or paying $20 for a taxi because Chicago has gutted its transit service?

Again.

(Find more discussion of this issue and vote up the topic in this Windy Citizen post.)

(UPDATE 11/12/09: Find a scathing review of Quinn’s transit funding deal in this Chicago Tribune editorial.)

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