A few of my readers have asked about better service coordination with the CTA’s RTA partners, Metra rail and Pace bus systems. Claypool said he has a good relationship with RTA Chairman John Gates, and that he’s “sympathetic to the needs of CTA and engaging across agencies to spur cooperation.”
But Claypool quickly veered off that topic to lament the “long-standing structural inequities driven by decades of politics that are inherent at the CTA.”
“We are delivering lion’s share of service but get less than other agencies. We provide 82 percent of rides and get 48% of transportation. And we have 72 percent of capital needs in region and get only 58% of capital repair dollars,” Claypool said. “We carry a heavy load of passenger. These are matters of fact – not said in sense of rivalry. The CTA is the economic driver for the area and needs to be better funded.” And that was all he said about the RTA.
On expanding bus rapid transit program, Claypool insisted we needed to make sure the BRT lines we’re experimenting with now will actually work. But he is hopeful that what the CTA learns from what Claypool call “BRT light on Jeffrey will inform the future:
“True full-blown BRT could happen on Western. It offers the best opportunity and connects all our rail station. That’s the beauty of it. It would be like the Circle Line – all those stations will be connected more cheaply. And, if done properly, it should enhance the residential and commercial property values.”
Finally, Claypool said he didn’t have the answer on which Red-Purple Line modernization plan would be best. But he did promise to speed up the process:
“I want to compress the process. We can’t afford a two-year environmental study process. The Red Line is too important. We have to find way to pay for it and find ways to compress the schedule.”
I asked him about the Chicago Reader’s ideas on modernization. “I read the Reader piece with interest. Their ideas were complex but fascinating. Actually, what’s really great about that story is it shows just how incredibly complex the transit business is. It’s not that simple to just put more trains into service.”
Personally, I was a bit disappointed that on the day of the interview, Claypool’s schedule was changed, and thus I only got 30 minutes with him, instead of the promised hour. There was really no time to press on some issues.