Friday, June 08, 2007

Public transportation, thanks to politicians not for long.

Here in Chicago the CTA is falling apart. I just read their 2007 Contingency Plan recently posted on their website, The problem is the CTA has been underfunded for years while at the same time the people at the top who ran the CTA gave themselves big pension plans that the CTA can't afford. On top of that the CTA is depending on critically needed funds from the state that doesn't look like will come through.

Whether the CTA is really in as bad of shape as they claim I don't know for sure, but what I do know is their current service is pretty bad and any cuts will make it even worse. In all the major cities I've visited that have public transportation, London, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon; Chicago has by far the worst public transportation. Compared to those other cities the CTA is dirty, slow, and unreliable. There have been times when I've waited over half an hour for a bus that was supposed to appear every 7 minutes, times when the bus or train has been so dirty you want to not touch anything other than holding your nose, times when buses broke down, buses with no air conditioning on 90+ degree days, and times when the buses or trains were so crowded you had to wait until several passed before one showed up with room for you to board. If fact at the station where I was waiting for a train yesterday I noticed numerous rail spikes laying around and missing from the ties and a few missing clips that hold the rail.

The CTA's current plan is to raise prices and cut service hoping they'll loose customers. The bus routes they're planning on cutting are already over capacity. Cutting those routes will only increase crowding on other already crowded routes to the point where you'll only be able to get on the bus if you get on at the first stop. On top of that they're planning on raising fares to the point where it's cheaper to pay for downtown parking. If this plan goes into affect I'm afraid it will create massive gridlock throughout the whole city and make everyone late for work. This is unacceptable and I think the CTA is counting on that to work to their advantage.

The bigger problem is not the overreaction by the CTA but the fact that at a time when the environment and the effects of global warming are coming to the forefront, the same politicians that are claiming to be pro environment are trying to avoid funding public transportation, which can do far more to reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels than some of the new program they're trying to pass such as the use of ethanol (which is really a farce since ethanol production requires more energy to produce than it saves.) If anything both the federal and state governments should be encouraging and expanding public transportation, especially in large cities where it makes the most sense. If public transportation were as clean and efficient as I've seen in other major cities I'm sure we could get a lot more cars off the road which would reduce carbon emissions, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and would even reduce travel time on buses which share those same roads. Hopefully the people who run our government will figure this out sooner rather than later.