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VIDEO: On Why Chicago Transit Authority President Richard Rodriguez Shouldn’t Be Driving to Work

UPDATES, 7/22/09:

This morning the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago Transit Authority president Richard Rodriguez canceled the free-car perq that dozens of high-ranking managers–including Rodriguez–used to drive back and forth to their jobs at the nation’s second-largest public transit system.

An ironic situation seemingly made all better–except that Rodriguez has now decided to lease a car from the CTA instead–at a discount rate–to make sure he still doesn’t have to ride to work on his own agency’s buses and ‘L’ trains.

All together now, folks: Are you kidding me?

(Video Blog: How are you doing your job if the one thing you’re paid to promote you rebuff in the morning news?)

Now I’ve covered some pretty stupid CTA stunts in the past. Couching cold-weather homeless harassment as a public service? Covering up the semi-permanent closure of a downtown ‘L’ station? Forgetting to tell riders about a new station entrance? Hating on specific groups of transit riders in their own customer survey?

And who could forget (as-soon-as-we-lose-the-Olympics outgoing) Mayor Daley’s open-handed slap in the face of transit riders when he abruptly yanked former CTA honcho Ron Huberman away from the agency?

But this really takes the cake. Rodriguez has been driving to work for months now, in order so spend more time with his kids in the morning. Cuddly as that reason sounds, there’s really no excuse. View the video above to hear why I think the head of the CTA regularly driving to work for any reason–not to mention crowing about it in major media–is about as moronic as it gets.

Trust me on that adjective. I used to be a grammar teacher and it’s the most apt one I can come up with that still manages to keep this post family friendly.

Or at least as family friendly as Rodriguez’s morning drive.

(Click the HQ button for a higher-quality video. RSS subscribers, click here to view the video on CHICAGO CARLESS.)

Categories: Chicago Transit Authority TRANSIT VIDEO BLOG

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion


30 replies

  1. Mike Doyle,

    You are aware that the mayor of NYC (who takes the subway to work) doesn’t have kids, right? The comparison is not the same.

    Also, you claimed on CTA Tattler that Rodriguez had never rode the CTA before he started his job which is flat out false? What say you about that?

    Also, the fact that you compared kids to pets (I can’t find the quote, but lots of people on this board mentioned it) shows just how juvenile you are.

  2. Mike


  3. After the lame, apologist approval of the CTA Tattler, I was happy to see *someone* refuses to accept this ‘family time’ nonsense.

    Are we to accept that anyone & everyone who bears children has free pass to clog our streets and poison our air to avoid the inconveniences of kids on transit?

    Plenty of parents and children *have* to rely on the CTA. They arrange their lives –the location of home, jobs, day care– around it. Why should the head of this agency be any different?

    And what kind of “quality time” do you get with your kids while operating a motor-vehicle, anyway? You can’t hold them or look at their drawings or pay them any level of proper attention.

    Fix the CTA and everyone can spend some real quality time with their kids, *at home*, not cramming it into half-assed multitasking.

    Mr. Rodriguez’s refusal is a commercial for the constant failure of the CTA, his fault or not.

    However, Mike, your video is just a rant.

    Your dismissal of the very concept of “children” isn’t going to win any votes –or break any gay-male stereotypes.

    I turned it off when you devolved into name calling.

    You’ve got too good a thing going here to waste an opportunity like this.

  4. I’ll also step in and take issue with Mike (not Doyle)’s comments, “Time to move on and make a difference in the world insted [sic] of bitching about it.”

    I don’t agree with every position that Mike D. has proffered on this blog (or elsewhere), but I will — as I have done in the past — defend his vocalism as a valid form of making a difference. Change doesn’t come from being silent and accepting the status quo. Change comes from forcing our leaders to listen to our demands and make the necessary changes to get things done.

    How else are we supposed to let them know that we’re not happy with the way things are? How else are they supposed to know what we want (and elected) them to do? It’s why pollsters and lobbyists are so powerful. Many bloggers are also lobbyists, just not the kind we’re accustomed to. Get used to it, though — they have loud mouths, and more often than not, they gets things done.

  5. I take issue with Jamie’s comment “that’s the nature of the beast.” The reason public transit is less reliable and slower than driving is simple: people don’t want to give up their cars. We spend massive amounts of money building, expanding, and repairing highways, bridges, etc., but won’t invest the resources needed to make public transit a better option than driving.

    I traded my car for a transit card when I moved to Chicago seven years ago. I occasionally have to get in a cab because I need to get somewhere faster than a bus or train will take me. I would gladly take public transit all the time if I could, if for no other reason than that it’s significantly cheaper than a cab. But that’s not going to happen until drivers stop focusing on their cars.

    If the powers-that-be spent more time using the services they’re supposed to provide, eventually it would be more efficient to take public transit. It’s like Mayor Daley pushing bicycles, but not spending enough time on one; if he did, we’d have safer streets for cyclists. (Not meaning to go off-topic…just another valid example.)

    And this should not be made into a family issue. If you don’t want to miss anything, then be a stay-at-home dad and home school your children. In the real world, parents miss things, and children get over it. I bet the Obama children aren’t crying because their dad spends more time working than he does with them — it’s “the nature of the beast.”

  6. Steve, I’m certainly not going to defend my ideas. They speak for themselves and many others are in agreement. If you’re not, that’s fine with me.

    Now to the real meat of the matter. You, Steve, represent one of Chicago’s most feckless types of individual. The kind that believes the status quo in this town and the politicians and functionaries who work so hard to create it and keep it unchanging are together somehow inherently worthy of praise, no matter how much they conspire to make life less livable for Chicagoans.

    Also, the kind of individual who refuses to accept any sort of criticism of the above–really, of anything that has to do with Chicago. Especially from the people you deem to be “outsiders.”

    You do realize, of course, unless you’re a Native American, that your family tree branched out from another country to arrive in the Windy City. If you were born here, chances are your parents or grandparents first set up shop in an east coast city, much like the one I was born and raised in.

    More than likely, you’re not even from Chicago, but from some outlying suburb, yet afflicted with the general delusion many Chicagoland suburbanites suffer from in thinking they are somehow from the city that instead they and their towns orbit, like codependent satellites.

    Your type of Chicagoan actually believes that you get to decide who is an authentic citizen of this city and who isn’t. And those you deem inadmissible, you love to verbally toss out out town.

    It’s an old, boring way to be, smacking of back rooms, and closed minds, and the worst kind of clout. Happily–although I doubt you’ll see it this way–your type of Chicagoan is dying out. Going the way of lakefront airports, parking meters, Our Ladies of the Underpass, and mayoral progeny with any chance of further election.

    No one has a license to decide who is or isn’t an authentic Chicagoan. I was drawn here by love for this city, I remain here by choice, and I’m not going anywhere. These roots I’ve grown are well-tended and deep, and very much mine. They’ve got staying power and so do I. I may not be from Chicago, but my ongoing willingness to defend its honor shows I’m definitely of Chicago. And–sorry Steve–you can’t change that.

    But much as I love this city, its history, and its people, I won’t be sad to see you go. When they hold the memorial service for your breed of chumbolone, I’ll be sure to send flowers.

    To a funeral chapel in Elk Grove Village, I’m sure.

  7. I was going to write a long post and say why I thought your argument was a joke, but I’m not going to waste my time. Instead, I’ll just never read your blog again. Go back to New York.

  8. It’s been widely reported that Bloomberg hops in an SUV every morning that takes him to the Lex Ave. subway. And as much as you (and I) wish it were so, Chicago will never be NYC in terms of transit. Manhattan is the only place in the United States where owning a car is an expensive hassle. In Chicago, like it or not, not owning a car is an inconvenience and it limits where you can go within a reasonable amount of time.

    One thing I have yet to read is where Rodriguez lives and where his kids go to school.

    I ride the CTA to work every day.

  9. Mike, while admittedly you’re a personal friend so I know that you can be even bitchier than me (and that says a lot), the homeless don’t matter? Public transit–in Chicago–doesn’t matter? Did you forget your meds today?

    I didn’t. That’s why I won’t bitch slap you for the crack about ADD.

  10. I agree with Kevin… time to take on some issues that mean something this is a crazy waste of time. Its always the same thing on here CTA, Homeless, or ADD.. look back to all the old topics there all about that. Time to move on and make a difference in the world insted of bitching about it..

  11. I don’t think we’d expect the CEO of McDonald’s to eat a value meal for lunch everyday, and I don’t think we should expect Rodriguez to ride the bus every morning. The important thing is that he would ride and has regularly ridden public transportation. I don’t think that his understanding of its issues would be particularly enhanced by riding it everyday.

    Riding the CTA is usually more time-consuming than driving–and that will always be the case, no matter how many improvements we make to the system, because that’s the nature of communal transit. Rodriguez probably works much more than 40 hours per week, and I imagine he’s basically on call all the time. Do you really begrudge someone who seems to be working pretty hard to improve the city’s transit options an extra hour or so with his family?

    Public transit is also less reliable than a car. Again, that’s the nature of the beast. If he can get to the office earlier and spend more time working on the CTA instead of riding on it, isn’t that a good thing?

    His agency and his leadership of that agency would be crucial in any kind of disaster–do you really think he should take the El to the office in the middle of the night if something goes wrong?

    Seems to me there are lots of reasons why the head of a major city agency should have access to a vehicle.

  12. This whole thing, for me, hinges on the quality of the time he’s allegedly spending with his kids. If he’s actually getting them dressed in the morning, making their breakfast, checking over their homework, driving them to school, asking them about their lives, etc., then sure, the car makes sense. If (as I suspect a busy city executive would spend his time) he’s checking email, answering text messasges/voicemail, calling underlings about an emergency that seems to crop up daily on the CTA, etc., then screw him. Don’t use your fucking kids as a shield or an excuse. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s answering calls and responding to text messages while he drives his kids to school… if that’s what he’s doing.

    But like I said, I don’t actually have factual evidence that this is how he spends this alleged valuable time with his kids in the morning. So I can’t fault him one way or the other…yet. Most of the heads of agencies I have met (and I worked for the city and state) usually hit the ground running from the time they get up, answering calls, getting things at the office ready for their day. Not that they don’t have time for their kids, but they tended to leave early or at five on the dot to go him and presumably spend time with them then. I’d rather Mr. Rodriguez begin his day making the CTA safe for every OTHER kid who has to ride the bus to work, and take care of his kids at the end of the day.

  13. I feel sad about Kevin O’Neil’s post. Kevin — sometimes it isn’t about what is best for your family, that option doesn’t exist. It is what is best for the company you represent. The only thing I can take from this is — Richard Rodriguez does not believe in or support his agency and he endorses the use of cars instead of public transit. How nice it would be if we could all get a discount car lease and not have to worry about public transit, how nice it would be if we could spend more time with our family, how nice it would be if we publicly endorsed one thing for others, but not for ourselves…. what is that called? HYPOCRISY. Kevin — Shame on you, you have embarrassed every person who advocates for public transit.

  14. He should be riding the CTA to work—to everywhere for that matter. He should have a gosh dang black CTA card.

    Support your own company—for God’s sake man! Part of being a leader is to be a role model and walk the talk…duh. Or in this case, ride the talk…

    And pets are like kids (for some of us). You must be an angry person Mr. CTA Tattler. Go to yoga or something, why don’t you ride the Blue Line there and let us know if you see Mr. President?

  15. I guess part of the point is that transit riders are subsidizing this lease, and that a vast majority of transit riders don’t ride by choice, they ride by necessity. This conversation neglects to acknowledge that the majority of folks who ride cta don’t have a car sitting at home for those days when they don’t feel like riding. It sucks for everyone who has a family when a packed train breaks down or goes through construction, and Rodriguez should experience that. Beyond that, our transit fares still subsidize this lease. COME ON! If he needs a car that bad, he can get it his damn self on his more than ample paycheck.

  16. I’m not surprised that he doesn’t take the CTA to work every day, lots of people consider it way more convenient to drive rather than to train or bus it to work, especially if they don’t live close to a stop. Does it really matter what his reasons are?

    At best, we could hope that if he needs/wants to see how commuter conditions are, he could ride any of the routes at any time. But you know that if he needed info about a route, he’d make use of somebody who works for him, I mean, isn’t that what underlings are for? I don’t think that it would necessarily interfere with his ability to run the organization.

    Would I like it better if he took the CTA to work every day? Sure. Would I ever in a million years expect him to? Nope.

  17. Wow, talk about confusing the issues. This is not a child care issue. This is simply a case of the emperor not wearing any clothes and those closest to him afraid to tell him. If he can spend that much more time with his children taking a car rather than the CTA, then the CTA and the rest of us who rely on it really are screwed.

  18. I agree with Kevin O’Neil and I don’t have kids. What I do have is lots and lots of memories of childhood activities that did not include my father, because he was at work. A lot. If he’d cited cleanliness issues like Carole Brown did, I’d be all over his case. If he wants to spend time with his kids, and driving to work helps him do that, fine.

  19. Kevin, not only could I not disagree more with your perspective, but it’s disappointing to read. As the editor of Chicago’s currently leading public-transit blog, I’d expect you of all people to be an advocate for transit and an opponent of the all-too-common midwestern perspective that transit is a second-best travel option.

    Many Chicago parents would love the luxury of driving to work in a car with a discounted vehicle lease in order to spend more time at home with their children. Instead, to see their kids they must wake up early–as Rodriguez can, mind you–before setting off on their daily rush-hour slogs to work on the CTA.

    Why shouldn’t the CTA president be required to have the same experience as the riders of the system he leads? And how can he possibly understand their experience if he goes out of his way not to share it–as he so publicly said he does in the Sun-Times?

    If the mayor of New York City can take the Lexington Avenue subway to and from work each and every day–in rush hour–then the (these days generally temporary anyway) president of Chicago’s transit agency can sure as heck do the same thing.

    Many people appreciate the sense of community that CTA Tattler site gives local transit riders (I’ve long been one of them.) Others (for example, this reviewer from The Beachwood Reporter) wonder why the site rarely if ever contradicts, questions, or opposes information shared by the CTA. (I’ve asked you this before.)

    I can respect you wanting to preserve your sources at CTA by not taking public positions on CTA Tattler that might offend the transit agency. But taking that approach too far–as I feel you are doing in the above comment–brings you dangerously close to being an apologist for the very public agency you’re covering.

    I prefer to ask questions that challenge the Chicago Transit Authority and its management to justify their service, policy, and customer-relations decisions. Very much of what the CTA says–and what most major organizations say, for that matter–is spin. And spin deserves to be questioned, especially when it comes from the perennially feckless CTA.

  20. I totally disagree with you on this one. And ditch the snarky remarks about kids being like pets. That’s just wrong. Obviously you don’t have kids.

    You ask “why does Richard Rodriguez think he’s more important than these folks” who have kids and have to take the train or bus to work.

    What makes you think that he thinks he’s more important than them? I think he’s doing what he thinks is best for him and his family. And he should.

    Let’s fact it. The guy no doubt works more than the 40 hours a week that the average guy does. So he doesn’t always see his kids at night at home. He sees them in the morning and gets some quality time with them in the car.

    So why begrudge him that? I’ve reported on my CTA Tattler blog that he rides the bus and trains plenty on and off his job. Last time I talked to him he said he rides to the airport with his kids on the Blue Line for fun.

    It would be different if he never rode the CTA. But he does. He’s found a way to strike a delicate balance between work and family. Just like millions of other parents.

    [Ed. Note: Kevin O’Neil is the editor of CTA Tattler.]

  21. I’m with you. When I saw the headline this morning, I was shocked. A mass transit agency provides free take-home cars to employees?

    And just before that, I was out for my morning walk thinking about how little common sense is exercised in this city.

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