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DePaul Study Calls For Major Investment To Modernize CTA, Metra

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 11, 2012 9:20PM

Photo credit: Jayanth Visweswaran

Slow zones. Delays. Creaky tracks and crumbling stations. Track switching problems on a regular basis. Buses that arrive in caravans at stops across the city, if they don’t pass you by altogether. These are the hallmarks of Chicago’s public transportation infrastructure for many. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool have made a lot of noise about the infrastructure programs they have enacted like the “station improvement initiative,” much of what’s happening is akin to putting a new coat of paint on a wall that suffered smoke damage in a fire.

A study commissioned by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and released by DePaul University shows how far into disrepair the region’s transit system has fallen and how much money would be needed to modernize CTA, Metra and Pace. The study, Tending to Transit: The Benefits and Costs of Bringing Public Transport in the Chicago Region into Good Repair says $2 billion in infrastructure improvements per year, over the next decade, are needed to keep from hearing “we apologize for the delay” on an endless loop.

That’s a daunting number, especially considering the current tendencies of state and federal governments to cut as much fat from their budgets as they can. The Tribune notes the 2009 Illinois Jobs Now capital bonding program is coming to an end. Meanwhile, CTA ridership is at its highest levels in over 20 years, while overall transit ridership in the region has increased by 5 percent. Projects like next year’s complete reconstruction of the Red Line’s South branch will help, but the region’s three transit agencies have other projects that require funding. So coming up with a reliable method to rustle up that $2 billion in annual funding without having to rely on being bailed out by Washington or Springfield is imperative on the Regional Transportation Authority to solve, according to the report.

In other local public transit news, Residents who rely on the Lincoln Avenue Bus rallied at Monday’s CTA budget hearing to voice their objections to the agency’s plan to eliminate the route from Fullerton to Western. The Sun-Times reports the meeting was a sea of yellow t-shirts that read “Save #11 Bus” while a stream of riders who rely on the bus, mainly seniors, offered testimonials on the route’s importance to them.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey said the sea of yellow t-shirts were a sign that CTA should “slow down, not stop” before deciding to put its “de-crowding” plan into effect.

“We need time to get this done,’’ Fritchey said. “Give us that time. Let us see if we can find an answer. If an answer is not there, the response you will get is ‘thank you’ for giving us a chance.”