Rahm to fund CTA improvements with downtown "congestion" parking tax

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2012 budget suggests imposing a new $2 "congestion premium" on all drivers parking in downtown parking garages and lots on weekdays. Total city tax would be $5. The extra $2 would fund currently unspecified CTA improvements  be used to rebuild two unnamed L stations downtown and to fund the bus rapid transit system, reports the Tribune.

I love this explanation/justification of the congestion premium in Rahm's press release:

On a typical workday, our Central Business District is jammed with vehicles, which makes it harder to do business.  Our streets are crowded, roads in need of repair and pollution created by drivers is unhealthy for Chicagoans.  Suburban drivers who use city services and infrastructure need to help pay the costs for these things.   The congestion fee is an incentive for drivers to take public transportation or pay more to park downtown.

I found one more CTA tidbits in the Budget Overview document:

  • The city is expecting $29.4 million in 2012 for the CTA Real Estate Transfer Tax Fund. It had budget $26.1 million for this year, but expects to end the year with $31.4 million. I guess Chicago is being cautiously conservative on 2012 estimates.

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  • In effect, if the City Council passes this, parkers would get the tax increase that was supposed to be a condition of the $193 million BRT grant that was lost in the waning days of the Bush administration.

    Sort of like cigarette taxes, the question is whether it achieves its congestion mitigation objective by (as put on various TV interviews), getting people onto Metra (nobody mentioned CTA), in which case what does he do if it doesn't pull in the expected revenue for that reason?

    This is, of course, the same problem as with the Real Estate Transfer Tax.Note first that this is the city budget document, not the CTA one.* The RETT might have done a bit better this year than expected, but (since it is a city budget document) it doesn't say if it generated enough to meet the CTA pension bond obligation. Until it does, you riders are paying for those bonds from the farebox.

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    *Still no indication whether Gump has a proposed budget. Pace sent out printed ones for public hearing yesterday.

  • So in order to get more people to take transit we need more people to drive and park downtown? Roundabout way of doing it, but as long as the money comes in...

  • In reply to mugen:

    I think you got it backwards. Like I said, it is like the cigarette tax in that it deters people from coming downtown.

    However, then there is the problem that it doesn't generate the revenue. Maybe what you said works if people keep driving, just as Cook County stays afloat by people smoking until they die prematurely.

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