No more kicks…on route…66?

I don’t actually know whether Chicago officials are cutting route 66 specifically, but the Chicago Transit Authority is making massive cuts that will affect thousands of lives, or more, with layoffs and route changes across the board.  The waits in between buses will increase, but I have to say they’re still much shorter than a lot of important routes in Austin (I could routinely wait 40 minutes, and they’re talking more like 20-30).

Here’s an interesting passage:

Anne Marshall, 35, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said she finds it disturbing that a city the size of Chicago is struggling to maintain its public transportation.

“I choose to take public transportation, but there are many people who do not have a choice,” said Marshall, who relies on public transit when she wants to travel downtown from her West Loop home.

A, there still are choice riders that elected officials and transit officials have to consider; we still have to make the pitch to people who can afford a car or taxi or private driver.  And B, cuts to transit hit people where it hurts and can be as significant as cuts to housing, food, etc., if it costs someone their job.  But, as is well-known, lower-income people often are perceived to have less influence or less of a voice in public policy.  That, I believe, must change.  Austin has some efforts afoot to change it–a bus riders union, for starters.

CTA officials say they know service cuts will be an inconvenience but maintain they are necessary to keep the transit agency functioning during an economic downturn that saw tax revenues plummet.

“This is not anything that is just a CTA issue, the city is going through its challenges, the state is going through its challenges,” new CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said.

“Everybody is trying to figure out how to manage their way through these difficult times.”

What bothers me is the extent to which the CTA is leaning on both the macroeconomy and existing sources of revenue drying up, instead of broadening the conversation, particularly much sooner than a crisis like this.  To me, it’s as basic as a conversation a family might have about how to invest/spend/save its money–you’re not going to put it all in one place.  Transit agencies have to diversify and save and spend judiciously to ensure they can do well in feast and famine.  It’s not clear that’s happening.


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