Dozens of community activists and angry CTA riders protested bank
deals which they claim take money from transit agencies in the lobby of a
Chase Bank at 10 S. Dearborn St. Thursday morning.
Pointing to a report released this week titled “Riding the Gravy Train,” which details “toxic swap deals” between Wall Street banks and 12 state governments, the group said nationally taxpayers are losing more than $520 million a year.
That’s money that could be used to stop public transit service cuts or pay for infrastructure repairs, the protesters argued.
“In Chicago, public transit is under attack,” said Elizabeth Parisian, policy director at Stand Up! Chicago. “CTA is now considering a range of options to deal with budget cuts, such as distance-based pricing and fare increases. These solutions would force low-income riders to shoulder the burden of budget shortfalls.”
Parisian spoke for several minutes after the group finished chanting “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out” in the bank lobby.
Then protester Ed Timmons handed a letter to security personnel addressed to Chase Bank CEO Jamie Dimon. Once Chase employees agreed to fax the letter to Dimon, the group moved outside.
The letter urged Dimon to renegotiate the swap deals that banks like JPMorgan Chase made to avoid failure during the banking industry bailout of 2008.
Again, the protestors pointed to numbers outlined in the “Gravy Train” report, which shows that banks are paying less than one percent interest on the bailout loans they secured from the federal government. Meanwhile, public transit agencies, which use taxpayer dollars, are paying three percent to six percent interest on loans they’ve borrowed from the banks for infrastructure projects.
Thursday’s protest comes just days after CTA officials laid out plans to close the South Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line for 5 months to complete much-needed repairs, which will begin about a year from now and cost taxpayers $425 million.
“Our communities already pay a distance-based fare system in the shape of extra hours spent on buses and lost wages due to unreliable modes of transportation,” Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative, said outside the bank. “South Side communities are being asked to go without train service at all for half a year while the CTA figured out how to renovate North Side Red Line stops, the Brown Line, and the Blue Line without shutting down train service. Is that right?”
Here's more from the rally:
Chicago has one of the nation’s largest public transit systems, second only to New York’s Regional Transportation Authority. According to the report, the CTA is also the second-biggest loser when it comes to the swap deals with $88.2 million lost annually in interest payments. New York’s annual swap losses add up to $113.9 million.