Monday, March 30, 2009

Transit advocates: state funding not enough

Chi-Town Daily News:
As Illinois legislators consider Gov. Pat Quinn's annual budget proposal, transit advocates say the state is falling far short of what's needed to adequately maintain Chicago's existing bus and rail systems.

In his budget, submitted earlier this month, the governor acknowledges that "mass transit systems are in dire need of new investment," and he sets aside $1.5 billion for state transit agencies over five years. Under Quinn's proposal, the new money would come from increases in motor-vehicle license fees.

But transit advocates warn that the new funding would not cover the $1 billion annual cost of maintenance and repairs for existing mass transit in Chicago. They say the federal stimulus package, which endowed Chicago transit authorities with more than $414 million this year, is not a replacement for a much-needed capital spending bill from the state.

"The state hasn’t provided a dime of transit capital funding for five years," says Brian Imus, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. "It’s not a surprise to discover commuters struggling with broken down buses and slow train service."

Imus echoed similar calls for more funding from transit officials across the Chicago area. Executives from the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra commuter rail and Pace suburban-bus system have asked legislators for a new spending bill, and the Regional Transportation Authority, which funds those agencies, is also lobbying the state for long-term capital funding.
Update 10:02 AM: Check out this John Hilkevitch column with ideas for 1 billion rides on the CTA!

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