Rahm stands by his transit team, vows cross-agency cooperation

Rahm at Loyola Park.jpg

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel addresses a 49th Ward Democratic Party meeting. (CTA Tattler photo)

Before a packed house in Rogers Park, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Monday
night defended both the CTA and his new transit team, and promised more
interagency cooperation among the CTA, Metra and Pace.

“Those day
are over where the various transit agencies are not cooperating,”
Emanuel said, referring to the sharing of a common fare card, among
other issues.

Emanuel spoke before about 200 members and friends
of the 49th Ward Democratic Party on the invitation of Alderman Joe
Moore. He showed warmth, humor, seriousness, and determination to meet
the challenges facing the city.

And according to one questioner, those are challenges facing a
“first-rate city with a third-rate transit system.” Some people in the
audience bristled at that comment calling it a third-rate transit system. And
so did Rahm Emanuel.

The mayor-elect was quick to point out that it’s the
second largest system in the nation. “More people take the CTA than any
other city [besides] New York.”

That’s not to say he’s happy
with the entire state of affairs at the CTA, particularly the burgeoning
capital investment needs for infrastructure improvements and expansion.
“We must get to the point where the operating budget is not
cannibalizing the capital budget,” Emanuel said.

In calling for Red Line
expansion on the South Side and its repair on the North Side, he also noted
that 40% of rail commuters ride the approximately 21-mile-long backbone of the city.

“We
must extend the Red Line to 130th Street. We can’t ask people to
participate in the economy if they can’t get into the economy.”

A
number of times during his short address he referred to his team
approach in tackling the city’s transit, schools and financial problems.
“I appointed teams because it takes a team approach,” he said.

“I
picked Forrest as president [of the CTA] because he was a proven, real
reformer at the Chicago Park District,” said the mayor-elect. “While he
was at the park district, he brought more services to the people for
less.”

He also mentioned Gabe Klein, his choice for CDOT chief, for his ideas on bike sharing and transit alternatives. 

Rahm
showed flashes of humor with jokes interspersed throughout his
40-minute speech and Q&A session. As he prepared to take questions,
he quipped, “As Henry Kissinger once said, does anyone have any
questions for my answers. Ha! Just kidding!”

In addressing the
issue of the much-hated parking meters deal, he said: “OK, for any press
here, what I’m about to say is just a joke: Mayor Daley united the
people in this city on the parking meter issue like no other.”

I think it’s going to be an interesting reign for Rahm.

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  • "and promised more interagency cooperation among the CTA, Metra and Pace."

    Except when Mosena handed off some routes to Pace in 1997, that would be a first. Heck, even the Daily Herald indicated that Schlickman is now starting to get that message, although that was his job until he quit, and he did nothing about it. Lot easier mumbling from the Ivory Tower of UIC.

    It even sounds like Emanuel got the message to have priorities, although one has to wait for his next meeting in Sauganash to see if he pushes the Orange Line extension.

    Apparently there is also a lack of understanding what a third rate system is, if he is basing it on ridership, instead of the awards show that made NYC a fifth rate transit system.

    Anyway, it seems like he thinks something has to be turned around from Saints Kruesi and Rodriguez. Except, of course, he kept on Terry Peterson.

    Also, since you or someone representing you was there (from the caption "CTA Tattler photo") did he give a commitment to throw out the 1976 interior design of the L cars?

  • In reply to jack:

    I was there. I took the photo, I did the reporting. I wrote this story. No mention of the 1976 interiors.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    And no ask either?

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    I'm afraid that emanual will just be a continuation of Daley, on steroids.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    There wasn't alot of time for questions and it was about a bunch of different topics.

    I said "3rd world" transportation system when I asked the questions, mentioned the lack of inter-agency cooperation, crumbling stations and a lack of concern for the customer as well as financial mismanagement (Block 37).. I heard the groans, but I stick by it.

    It just amazes me with the sheer number of management personnel that they come up with things like "train spacing" during rush hour. In practice, it means that if there is a train behind you that is behind, they slow down the trains in front to keep them on "schedule". While this sounds like a good idea (and could be outside of rush hours), it doesn't make any sense to delay a train that is full at Argyle and stays full until Belmont. They should just run express like they have in the past when there are backups/delays. If a bus is full it doesn't stop to pick up new passengers unless someone is trying to get off.

    I have hopes that this will change and I was impressed with the response from the mayor-elect. As I look at it, with the current situation it can't get much worse and I'm happy that Mr Rodriguez is toast....as far as I can see, he did little or nothing to improve. I hope that the customer input will be a big factor in this administration, as opposed to the industry and civic and religious leaders as quite frankly they have no clue as to what the riders/customers go though each and every day....

  • In reply to KevinB:

    Glad that you stuck to your guns regarding your question, as you did with regard to the Washington station one.

    Are you implying that Emanuel did not bring up interagency cooperation on his own, but only after you asked?

  • In reply to jack:

    Correct. KevinB brought up interagency cooperation.

  • In reply to jack:

    I asked the only transportation related question...off the top of my head, it went as:

    We have a first rate city with a third world public transportation system. We have crumbling stations, $6 gal gas, we spent 250+ million dollars on a hole in the ground under block 37 that could have bought alot of infrastructure, we have 3 agencies, Metra, Pace and CTA that act like they don't interact or need to, we can't even do something as simple as making the train and the platform at the same height so that someone in a wheelchair or scooter can't get on a train without scheduling a station assistant, how are things going to change under your administration (or something close to that).

    He brought up some of the stats, and said that the piecemealing of transportation needs was going to stop and would be brought under the RTA, he mentioned extending the red line south, and that he had alot of confidence in Forrest Claypool as a reformer and that he understood how important transportation was to the economic health of a city, but at the same time, he inherited decades of neglect and mismanagement from the current mayor.

    Kevin, correct me if I missed something.

  • In reply to KevinB:

    To hell with the Red line south to 130th!
    Fix the Red Line north first.
    Hell, fix the weird new slow zone for NB trains from the Cermak Station north into the tunnel to about 15th St.!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'm not going to "go to hell with the Red line south to 130th" because the need for it seems clear, given the current need to route buses south of 95th into the 95th station, the resulting congestion at that station, and the boarding statistics indicating that the ridership is there.

    However, I agree that something has to be done to fix the north Red Line before some bridges collapse. Whatever I said before, I agree with this column that the $8 billion subway plan is another example of overdesigning and not getting anything done. Prioritize, and get the thing fixed so that (as Scooter implies in his last sentence) we don't have slow zones again for hopefully at least 20 years, and the overpasses will hold up another 80.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack wrote:

    "Whatever I said before, I agree with this column that the $8 billion subway plan is another example of overdesigning and not getting anything done."

    Jack, you doubled the price of the subway plan. It's $4 billion.

    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/cta-tattler/2011/01/cta-red-purple-line-alternative-modernization-2-track-underground.html

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    Looking at the Scoping pamphlet, I guess so.

  • In reply to jack:

    So, does thta mean you support the subway idea now? Especially since the two other alternatives cost the same or more?

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    No. Still overdesigning, and I don't believe that 2 tracks can cover 4 tracks worth of traffic. I made my position clear above.

    I also don't believe that the cost "will be the same," nor that there won't be costs digging up Broadway for Richard Lord knows how many years.

    Also, it is up to CTA to be responsive to its riders, not to me to endorse what their consultants say. I don't work for them.

  • In reply to jack:

    It is very possible to have the same fare card and two completely separate, independent fare tables. In theory, the agencies would never have to talk, but riders could use the same card wherever they went.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm not saying to never build to 130th St., I'm saying fix what you already have first then expand.
    Adding 5-6 more miles of new track is like a family with 10 really sick children deciding that an 11th child is just the solution for all their problems!
    What good is going to 130th if the North Side is a total disaster of slow zones. Plus large parts of the existing Ryan line are also slow zones.
    And I really would like an answer about the NB slow zone from Cermak to inside the tunnel around 15th St. It's not on the latest slow zone map [April 4]
    I went through it a week ago & it was full speed.
    And while the map shows slow zones of 15MPH, most of the time it's really about 5MPH, like Loyola to Granville.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    What good is going to 130th if the North Side is a disaster?

    Serving all the southside customers who aren't going any farther than downtown, that's what.

    The Red Line *as a whole* is 40% of CTA rides. The North Side (Red and Brown) is NOT. Please, a little less Northsider privilege getting thrown around -- by contrast, you guys have some really awesome facilities, and all you do is bitch that they're old and a little worn. They shut DOWN the Green for two entire years -- no train, period, nada, zilch. The Green, the south spur of the Blue, and the Red get significantly under-resourced on a chronic basis because relatively few wealthy northsiders ever ride them.

    And you are clearly the only Chicagoans you believe should count ...

    Nevermind all the people who keep downtown running who live south of 96th, they don't matter, right?

  • In reply to elmason:

    Thank you Elliot, you said exactly what I wanted to say to Scooter; but I didn't want to be accused of playing some "card".

  • In reply to elmason:

    Interesting Maps showing distances to Chicago rail transit stations:
    http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/April-2011/How-Close-Do-You-Live-and-Work-to-the-Chicago-El/

  • In reply to jack:

    Hey Kevin, any idea when he will be attending any Meetings on the South Side?

  • In reply to mikep621:

    Is your aldercreature going to invite him, like Joe Moore did? As indicated, this was a 49th Ward Democratic Committee meeting, not an open house.

  • In reply to mikep621:

    Since this wasn't specifically a transit meeting and a ward meeting as jack pointed out, I doubt that he's going to be doing lots of these after he becomes mayor, he'll probably have the new president start addressing some of these issues.

  • In reply to KevinB:

    Thanks to both for your replies.

    I take it from KevinB's description of the answer that Rahm was in effect acknowledging what I said in my first post about the prior management.

  • In reply to jack:

    Re: this line from KevinB above:

    "but at the same time, he [Rahm] inherited decades of neglect and mismanagement from the current mayor."

    Rahm didn't say this exactly, and by my ear, he didn't even imply it. What he DID say about mismanagement was what I wrote in my post:

    "That's not to say he's happy with the entire state of affairs at the CTA, particularly the burgeoning capital investment needs for infrastructure improvements and expansion. "We must get to the point where the operating budget is not cannibalizing the capital budget," Emanuel said."

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    He said that he was dealing with alot of issues that had been "passed down" including vote on the clean power issue and others. I specifically mentioned 250+ million of funds that could have been used to fix alot of the CTA problems that were just wasted on the Block 37 superstation that had no chance of actually working. I mean how can this not be considered mismanagement? Huberman even said this when he had to kick in the last $46 million to "finish the basement". I brought the article from the sun-times just in case I was called on it.

    One of the majors reason for cannibalization of the capital budget is that they have mismanged the operating budget by not collecting fares, bloated middle management, and just not using the money effectively. All we have to do is point to things like the sweet deal that the management company got to handle all the commercial property. That sure paid off for the CTA...

  • In reply to KevinB:

    And, as I frequently mentioned, wasting capital on the NABIs, too.

  • In reply to KevinB:

    KevinB's reference to Block 37 also reminds me about Huberman's presentation on how the costs of that 1-1/2 block tunnel got out of control, which reinforces what I said about not believing the subway cost estimate. Of course, after that, Daley mumbled something about "we couldn't proceed because the switches would have been obsolete" and then about wanting a maglev.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think we are all well aware that the cost estimates for each of the modernization alternatives are just that - estimates.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    But there is a history here. Yet, you expected me to reverse field just because I acknowledged that I might have misread something.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well Jack, you *did* say the subway would cost $8 billion when in fact it's estimated to cost half that amount. So that knowledge could in fact make one "reverse field."

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    No, for reasons previously stated.

  • In reply to KevinB:

    I think the consensus is that from Frank on they were a bunch of morons and that's giving morons a bad name...and that's board pres and president.

  • In reply to KevinB:

    That's probably true (although I wouldn't throw Huberman under the bus, figuratively), but that goes back to neither the board nor the president being, as stated in the MTA Act, business experts nor experienced in transportation, respectively.

    By treating the CTA as an office of the mayor, instead of the independent municipal corporation that it is (de jure), Emanuel is doing nothing different, except saying that Claypool might be a better administrator. As I mentioned earlier, I am still waiting for the fig leaf to be used to dispose of Rodriguez according to the formalities.

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