percent of Chicagoans likely to vote in next month's election but who
haven't decided upon a mayoral candidate yet believe good public transit
is an "important immediate concern" for the next mayoral
administration. That intriguing finding comes courtesy of a recent
survey of 500 likely Chicago voters conducted for the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in Washington, whose Local 308 affiliate represents frontline CTA employees.
other words, the candidate who offers solutions the doomsday-riddled
CTA may be able to garner significant votes for herself or himself. To date, the six
remaining mayoral candidates have not even tried to do this. The Tribune's John Hilkevich points out none
have released recommendations discussing how they view transportation
issues. It is a pretty remarkable point, given that last year the
region's primary public transit agency cut
9 percent of its train service and a whopping 18 percent of its bus
service, slowing down the system and resulting in the layoffs of more than 1,000
layoffs CTA personnel.
ATU wants the city's next mayor to be actively engaged in public transit issues. In a white paper (which can be downloaded from ATU's website),
the union calls on Chicago's next chief executive to push the region's
congressional delegation to support HR 2746
in Congress. The legislation
would give big city transit agencies more options in how they could
spend federal transit dollars, allowing urban areas with populations of
more than 200,000 to use federal transit dollars on system operations.
Currently, most of those dollars in big cities may only be spent on
capital projects. The rule means, as the white paper states, federal
dollars can be used
for "design engineering for the North Park Bus Plug-Ins, technology
implementation services to provide hi-definition and thermal cameras"
but not for wages, jobs, and rides for transit-using Chicagoans. (The
city's "recovery ratio," mandated by the state, is particularly rigid and limits the agency's operational fleixibility, too.)
least the transit issue is getting some attention in the press and from
advocacy groups. Don't forget that a coalition of eight organizations
have called on the mayoral contenders to sign on to the Sustainable Transportation Platform, an ambitious document (PDF) that touches on everything from bike
access to high-speed rail to raising the state's gasoline tax.