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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

They Shudda Let CTA Doomsday Happen

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Daily Observer

They should have let the CTA, Metra and Pace cut service and raise fares this week. They still can go ahead with it, and it wouldn’t have been “doomsday.”

This is contrary to the given wisdom about “ticking clocks” and the approach of our ruination. Everyone meekly accepted the idea that fewer buses and trains running in Chicago and suburbs would be a disaster for “all of us.” They RTA board—the overseer of the region’s transit systems—said they no choice but to grab tens of millions of dollars from next year’s budget to keep service going, or else we would have strangled ourselves on—take your pick—traffic gridlock, suffocating fog and economic disaster. Or all of the above.

This is nuts.

Spending next year’s revenues isn’t too far removed from what millions of American homeowners did by taking out mortgages they could barely afford today, never mind when their ...

Read more at Chicago Daily Observer

1 comment:

Jim Johnston said...

Free Market Transit Solution

The transit crisis in Chicago and its suburbs is getting worse. A stopgap of $24 million has been offered by Governor Blagojevich to avoid the “doomsday” fare increases and cuts in bus routes until November 4, 2007.

The last transit crisis in Chicago was in the spring of 2005. At that time I wrote a letter that was published in the Chicago Sun Times on March 3 suggesting a free-market solution that worked in the 1980s. I think the same solution will work today. The letter is below.


Tried-and-true CTA solution

In the CTA crisis of the 1980s a clever innovation emerged. Worried workers in the low-income neighborhoods chartered school buses to take them into the Loop in the morning and then back home in the late afternoon. It fit right on either side of taking kids to school and back. The charters were called subscription buses.

The CTA and the unions would have acted to make the subscription buses illegal, but for the work of Joseph Schweiterman. He pointed out in a brilliant analysis that all mass transit is characterized by very high peak load costs. If part of the peak load is relieved by subscription buses, then the finances of the CTA would improve and riders would be better served. That is exactly how it turned out.

We are now in the midst of another crisis. When one views the proposed cuts in service, one cannot help but notice that most of the cuts are either lightly used routes or peak-hour service. Thus, the solution for this crisis is like the one in the last crisis. Allow the chartering of subscription buses, permit taxis to sell individual seats during rush hours, and set up a carpool clearinghouse on the Internet. Some of these will require legal action. But that would be more useful than Springfield's spending money to run empty buses and trains.

Jim Johnston, Wilmette