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the importance of public transportation

Thursday 21 August, 2008

I find it very interesting that the 1st thing Chicago Mayor Daley investigated in Beijing on his trip to promote the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid was to check out the new public transportation system, as mentioned in this article Transit system is Daley’s first stop in Beijing by Kathy Bergen in the Chicago Tribune. Chicago’s decaying public transportation system has been an embarrassment for quite awhile now & I’m glad it’s coming into focus for the mayor to fix it.

Head of the International Olympic Committee, Jacque Rogue was in Chicago late last fall & spoke to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It was during that visit that CTA funding was being debated in Springfield, & the headlines in the papers were not complimentary to the negotiations. If he read the local papers on that trip, I’m sure he was horrified @ how public transportation is being managed in Chicago.

What concerns me as a businessperson is the CTA’s impact upon business, in that if workers can’t plan their commutes to get to work & home on time, significant worker productivity is lost. The CTA’s refusal to publish schedules (& even make them less relevant by saying they’ll run every 4-15 minutes, which essentially means whenever the conductor/driver wants), makes no sense to me. I’m surprised the business community doesn’t express a more vocal opinion on this too. Employers are losing valuable work time when workers aren’t sure when they’ll arrive @ work.

I’ve been on public transportation systems all over the world. I’ve been on buses in small towns in Poland that are more reliable than the buses in Chicago. The CTA’s argument is that you can’t control traffic. My argument is there is no reason to wait for a 1/2 hour for a bus, & then 3 come by in a 3 minute span. That’s an average of a bus arriving every 10 minutes, but doesn’t serve customers whose travel is inconsistent that way. 3 buses every 30 minutes doesn’t move people as effectively as 1 bus every 10 minutes. It’s a management issue. Make a schedule & stick to it. I understand the unions might not want to be held to a schedule, but I’ll choose serving customers over the interests of the unions.

When I was living in Germany, I visited Berlin before the wall came down. The subway in West Berlin rode through stations in East Berlin to get to other West Berlin stations. Which stations do Chicago’s most resemble? The old dilapidated East German ones! Even further, the CTA more resembles systems from old communistic countries with old hub & spoke systems where all lines run through a central point rather than more developed systems where you can travel to multiple destinations within an integrated subway/bus system with a schedule so that you can plan when & where to go. Here, you just have to wing it & hope for the best.

It would be terribly ironic if Chicago loses the bid for the 2016 Olympics because of inferior transportation infrastructure, especially in a city that sells itself to the world based on it’s world-class air & freight connections. We don’t need the glitz that Daley saw in China. We just need a system with a schedule you can count on that works as scheduled.

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One comment

  1. Salt Lake City had the games in 2002, it look like Chicago looking to Utah Transit Authority.

    Light Rail is moving full speed ahead, the Destruction
    of the Bus System has assumed alarming proportions.

    Through Mismanagement, Aggressive Elimination of Bus Routes and Fare Increases Utah Transit Authority is Destroying the Bus System.

    John Inglish General Manager Salary $266,614
    Bonus $39,860 Other Incentives $60,526
    TOTAL $367,000, there nine more High Payed Executives
    that receive Huge Salaries and Huge Bonuses. All at
    TAXPAYER EXPENSE!

    How Utah Transit Authority earn their Bonuses by saying that there is Increase Ridership, then turn around and say Ridership is down, then cut Bus Routes, of course the Executives get to keep their Bonuses.

    Utah Transit Authority is a Public Service!



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