To the editors:
The October 18 Reader article by Jim Krohe on the proposed Central Area Circulator ("Daley's Trolley") reads more like an unabashed public relations piece or a politically motivated feasibility study notable more for what it leaves out than for what it contains.
First, the article neglects to put the circulator in the context of what is happening to mass transit in Chicago today: namely that the financially strapped CTA, in the face of a $57 million deficit, is proposing to cut 23 el stations and 11 bus routes and to raise fares by as much as 15 percent. Mr. Krohe fails to mention that the $747 million in funding for the circulator will only pay for its construction, not for operation and maintenance. Will the circulator drain money from the CTA? That's a question begging to be asked.
When the smoke clears from the CTA's budget troubles, our public transit system will be a permanently and drastically scaled-down version of a system which was once hailed as among the nation's best. What will this do to air pollution, economic vitality of the city, and the already overburdened and decaying roadways?
Spurred by these dangerous developments, a Citizens' Transit Organization (278-4800) is being formed to fight for improved, equitable, affordable, and environmentally conscious public transit in Chicago.
A related question the article fails to address are the priorities underlying such transit choices. Federal transportation funding for highways and mass transit comes out of the same pot. If Chicago uses up its chits on a Cadillac trolley system to allow tourists to avoid dirty subways and downtown office workers--already at their jobs--to shop at Saks on their lunch hours, what will be left for other transportation projects? For example, will there be money for the proposed Mid City Transit Way, a circumferential line that would connect all rapid transit lines and O'Hare and Midway?
Mr. Krohe notes that $747 million for a trolley is not a large number by today's standards. Clearly, three-quarters of a billion dollars IS a lot of money--even in the realm of transportation spending--when you consider the brutal cuts and the fare increases the CTA is proposing to make up a $57 million deficit (one-fifteenth the cost of the circulator). Again, context is enlightening.
Daley, whom Mr. Krohe praises as "the first mayor in modern times with a passion for making things work," has failed to provide a smidgen of leadership on the CTA's current woes. However, he is an active booster for the trolley. So perhaps the appropriate question for Daley is, "Does he want to make things work for the out-of-town shopper, or the neighborhood resident trying to get to work?"
Finally, the article leaves out the voices of those who do have questions about the circulator. Those grumpy neighborhood groups, whom Krohe mentions in passing, would have been happy to help frame these issues and to raise other important questions. Mr. Krohe either chose not to talk to such individuals or not to include their comments. This is either irresponsible journalism or boosterism. Usually the Reader can be counted on to avoid both.
Rest assured that the Citizens' Transit Organization (278-4800) WILL be asking such questions.
Citizens' Transit Organization