Not Fare - UPDATE: Doomsday Delayed
Despite all of the miscues in Springfield since this session started, I just can't see any of them having the potential impact of our failure to successfully address the mass transit funding issue thus far.
As many of you know, I have not historically been a fan of how the CTA was operated, believing that a lot of their problems were self-inflicted over time. That was why I introduced and passed the resolution directing Auditor General William Holland to perform a comprehensive audit of the CTA last session.
If the CTA was going to get any additional funding from the State, taxpayers deserved to know that the money was being efficiently utilized.
With the audit in hand, Rep. Julie Hamos has done a Herculean effort of trying to build consensus for SB572, legislation aimed at not just reforming the dated funding formula for the RTA, but actually providing for greater accountability so that riders and non-riders alike are getting their money's worth in regional mass transit. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the bill and stand in full respect of Julie for her determination in this battle.
It's hard to believe that you would have to convince people, legislators or not, of the critical nature of mass transit. The anti-congestion benefits. The environmental benefits. The economic benefits. The impact on day-to-day life.
Yet there are still people that refuse to help advance this issue. It is baffling to me that the legislation that we are trying to pass places the (minimal) burden solely on the affected region, provides additional funding for transit agencies statewide, is vital to the economic engine that is the Chicagoland area, and yet the support to date from many legislators outside the area has been lacking.
The upcoming 'doomsday' fare hikes and service cuts are not just a mere inconvenience for people. For some people, it may be the difference in whether or not they can get to their jobs. For others, the fare hike isn't about bus money or beer money; it's about rent money or grocery money.
For weeks (months?), the Governor (from Chicago, who lives in an area hugely dependent upon mass transit) has said that he would veto SB572 because he opposes and and all sales tax hikes - even if his veto would create more hardship on the working men and women that he says he is looking out for than would the sales tax dragon that he is hell-bent on slaying.
Compounding the issue is that he and Senate President Jones have failed to put any passable alternative on the table. (Now that I think about it, this is sounding like his GRT proposal on wheels.)
My real point, again, is that this issue is not one for political posturing, like scheduling Senate session the day after the cuts are supposed to go into effect. This should not be an exercise in bad political judgment.
It should be about legislators, around the state, recognizing that we have a real problem that needs to be immediately addressed, and that these are the types of issues that they were elected to fix. If we are ever going to get away from the archaic Chicago/Suburban/Downstate divides that are increasingly irrelevant in today's economy, this would be a great place to start.
UPDATE - From the Chicago Tribune website:
The CTA's top officials this afternoon accepted a $24 million funding advance proposed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to avert fare increases and service cuts set to take effect Sunday and Monday, but the agency's doomsday scenario will still take place in November unless new funds are obtained.The stop-gap measure forestalls a lot of transit riders' angst until the new drop date of November 4. Hopefully, this time the General Assembly can get the job done.