Today in transit funding

From yesterday’s Mass Transit Committee hearing:
– Madigan attended the hearing, appeared to be interested
– Pace has volunteered to take over regional paratransit, is looking into Medicaid
– RTA continues to be unhelpful and unsure amidst all this

Kruesi spoke to the City Club on Monday and made some realistic, although politically uncouth, remarks about raising sales taxes in the collar counties, raising gas taxes regionally, and maybe suing RTA on environmental justice grounds. Collar county officials and Metra are crying that they pay nothing for transit because they get nothing for transit — well, tough shit. Even the minimal transit service in the collar counties still requires huge subsidies from Cook County taxpayers. And if you want massive new expansions like the STAR Line, be prepared to pay higher taxes to run that service. (Update: Greg Hinz in the 2 May Crain’s says that Jeff Ladd may be on his last political favors.)

And Carole Brown, who’s caught in a sticky spot between angry riders and a political system she’s not quite part of, has taken the unprecedented (at least for the clubby world of Chicago politics) step of setting up a blog. A breath of fresh air! She cites CTA analysis showing that, if CTA had kept fare increases to 20% since 1983 (as Metra has), base fare would be $1.10 and there would be 70 million more annual rides on CTA today.

Some conjectural analysis: let’s say just half of those 70,000,000 rides are instead car trips of just three miles apiece — an average length for urban trips. That works out to:
– almost 100,000 fewer car trips a day inside Chicago — equivalent to shutting down Lake Shore Drive (at Foster)
– at 40c/mile in direct costs plus $2 in parking per trip, switching those trips to transit would save Chicago drivers $112,000,000 a year
– at city mileage of 21.5 mpg, switching those trips would save 4,883,720 gallons of gasoline and prevent literally tons of pollution: 53,720 tons of carbon dioxide, 13,419 pounds of carbon monoxide, and 1,750 pounds of volatile organic compounds (the principal precursor to smog/ozone)
– if said trips prevented the construction of just 1,000 parking spaces, that’s still enough parking to fill an eight acre site: two and a half city blocks, or the size of the eastern (street level) section of Millennium Park or Independence Park on the northwest side.

Reducing short car trips in urban areas is the single best way to reduce vehicular emissions — reducing VMT by 1% equals a 2-4% reduction in emissions, since stop-and-go urban driving is so inefficient.