Thinking big on transit's future: Cook County funding?

Local politician and transit advocates were dreaming big last week at the launch of the Transit Future campaign.

The transit advocates – the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and the Active Transportation Alliance – were joined by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane at the launch of Transit Future.

TransitFutureTransit Future calls on the Cook County Board of Commissioners to adopt a robust revenue stream to fund the improvement and expansion of Chicago and Cook County’s transit system. A new revenue source will allow the County to take advantage of America Fast Forward and other financing tools at the federal level.

Inspiration for Transit Future comes from California, where voters in Los Angeles County approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund $40 billion in new and expanded transit. Imagine that – voters actually approving such an extra tax just to fund mass transit improvements. That’s something I’d like to see happen in m lifetime.

The Transit Future campaign imagines connecting the spokes of our current system with its hub downtown. Scroll through the interactive graphic to “meet the transit lines that could transform Chicago.”

The TF campaign suggests that the “Cook County Board of Commissioners can create a robust revenue stream to fund the construction of these new train and bus lines. This local revenue will open the door to federal and other financing tools that will pay for the rest.”

I love the idea of getting the Cook County Board more involved in the funding. And that fact that Cook County Board President Preckwinkle was there and lent her support is big:

“This is not just about investing in transit for transit’s sake, it’s about helping people move around the region – to jobs, to school, to opportunities. Cook County should be a leader in developing transportation systems that drive a modern, sustainable, and equitable economy. My administration is committed to assuming that leadership role.”

Let’s remember those words and hold her to them.


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  • Hmm. Maybe there could be a new oversight organization that could strategically manage capital investment and funding for transit in Northeast Illinois, making the CTA, Pace and Metra work together effectively. Or maybe there could be a really snazzy website. Pretty much either works, really.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    Except that the activists with the really snazzy website never work.

    Kevin Z had this a couple of days ago, and we pretty much dissected it there, so there is no need to repeat proving that it is a joke here. Especially trying to tax Cook County residents outside Chicago for something that is 99% unprioritized CTA.

    On the other hand, it appears that everyone with a stake in the dysfunctional status quo (Gates mouthed off again today, trying to start another fight with the CTA over using sales tax proceeds for bonds and trying to cover up the hiring of Madigan's son in law) is trying to make darn sure that the first never happens.

  • WOW -- What a bunch of Cynics, I guess nobody should e v e r try to change anything.

    I guess all of us TAXPAYERS should just bend over, take it, and Smile real nice for the camera.........

  • Lol. Well, hasn't that always been the way it is around here? :-)

    So, does this new revenue source take precedence over the pension backlog? Yeah, didn't think so.

    'Nice to see an Ashland and Cicero line on the map. Still not sure why you have to maintain the southern legs of the green line when you have the parallel Red line, and a new Gold line running along the Metra Electric tracks.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    They just cumulated every CTA plan over the past 20 years. CTA killed the Cicero line in a 2009 Circle Line AA report. As I said, this is a joke. I also see that the mainstream media didn't pick this up, maybe they are more interested in the brush off the Fitzgerald plan.

  • In reply to jack:

    Why do you say the mainstream media didn't pick this up:,0,3473071.story

  • I must have missed that one, but I bet it wasn't on the Tribune home page that long.

    I also note that that article fudged about what tax, although web sites said sales.

    I also see that they quoted Grimshaw without noting that she is on the CT Board, and admitted that she abdicated her duty with regard to cutting the 11 bus. They also noted that this was counter the task force point that regional cooperation was ignored, her response being that the other counties should raise taxes, too. Typical for a Quinn appointee.

  • This points out one reason why I asked how long you have been living in Lisle (I don't care about your address). It is real easy to advocate raising sales taxes in Cook County to benefit only bad planning by the CTA if people shop outside Cook County.

    But then you may mean what you say, that Cook County taxpayers shouldn't bend over to the activists trying to raise our taxes in an unaccountable manner. It certainly would advance economic development in Lake and DuPage Counties, not to mention Indiana, where that scion of county government honesty, Beavers shopped.

    As SpinyNorman points out, I'm sure that taxpayers are also considering that Quinn is running on a platform of raising income taxes "for education" (like the income tax and lottery weren't originally for education), Emnanuel wants to raise property tax to cover some, but not all of the city pension liability (at least that would be restricted to Chicago), and now this.

  • In reply to jack:

    So what is your answer jack, how would you resolve this Transit Agency mess? (and please NOT "just leave it alone")

  • I said what my response was--in effect the Fitzgerald plan, although some details have to be changed, like the one I mentioned earlier about de facto excluding representation from Cook County suburbs. You'll note that this plan also ignores Pace and Metra in Cook County (except for ART, which is already funded by CMAQ).

    Then if there were regional planning instead of 4 boards fighting over turf, and some accountability over spending, I would consider funding sources, but not before.

    However, since Madigan is forehead deep in corruption at 2 of the agencies, I trust that you will vote for Rauner's term limits proposition first, if not him for governor.

  • In reply to jack:

    Term limits I agree with 1,000%! As for him being governor, I am a Bleeding-Heart-Liberal -- and He and I are Light-years apart on MANY social issues.

  • You should also note that the analogy was to the LA County MTD. While they apparently don't run the commuter rail line, this was only advocating for the CTA, not a Cook County MTD.

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    Let's see, looking at the plan to transform "Chicagoland" I see that only two of the projects will leave Cook County, while the transportation area consists of 6 counties. Why are there ZERO plans to provide ease of transportation from two points where neither of those points is downtown Chicago? I recently looked at a job 2 suburbs away from me, about 10 miles. To drive, it would take about 20 minutes, to take public transportation, it would take around 90 minutes at best walking and 2 buses, or 3 buses and a train. Currently the CTA gets roughly 30% of the RTA sales tax collected outside of Chicago

  • In reply to Wayne Driscoll:

    It doesn't leave Cook County because it was a county only thing, not a metro 6 county thing.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Which is the inherent problem with it pointed up in the reports on the Fitzgerald task force, and hence why it is not deserving of support.

    Preckwinkle is apparently one of many politicians playing ostrich on that issue. And as I noted, she theoretically represents suburban Cook County, but doesn't act like it. Where is the pan for Metra riders within Cook, not to mention anywhere else???

  • In reply to jack:


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    In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Then be 100% honest and don't make B.S. claims about how it will "transform Chicagoland" and tout it as a Chicago only solution that will, eventually, be funded by everyone.

  • I don't know. Is a sales tax the best mechanism for raising cash, or an increase in the gas tax? Gas prices in Chicago are near the top in the country, but if people want to drive, getting other drivers off the road is the most straightforward means to decrowding the highways. We basically have no room to increase capacity without significant expenditure.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Then the question is whether Preckwinkle wants us to continue purchasing gas in Lake or DuPage county or, like Beavers, in Indiana on the way back from the casino.

    Just crossing the line, I saved 30 cents a gallon over the weekend, by using Gas Buddy (which indicated that the differential was down 6 hours later, though).

    And, apparently this plan does nothing to decrowd highways in the suburbs. It is probably too expensive to drive in the city, already.

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