HPKCC Transit Task Force /Transportation and Parking Committee

 

Hyde Park Transit and Access/Mobility Task Force

of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit and Parking Committee and the HPKCC website, www.hydepark.org
Help support our work: Join the Conference!

Join the Transit Task Force-contact hpkcc@aol.com or Jane Ciacci concerning contacts for transit and mobility issues

HPKCC program home. Committees. About HPKCC. Transit home. Accessibility and Transit Hot Topics.

Visit Task Force Report page.

To Transit web home. 2004 Bus Route Workshops reports/conclusions page.

Contents of this page

Other pages: I-GO Carshare. Transportation Enhancement District and other TIF Pkg Committee recommendations.

In this page:

 

Meetings et cetera

None scheduled at present

 

What neighbors said about HP transportation, parking at the HPKCC public discussion on HPK October 2005

Changes Wanted
· Table 2 Para transit and coordinated transportation
· Table 4 Improve poor management of public spaces, e.g., no bike riding on sidewalks…
· Table 5 Better transportation at night

Comments
TRANSPORTATION (9)
· Transportation within HP
· Parking issues, street cleaning
· Parking difficulties
· Need cab service
· Parking
· What happened to taxi cab service?
· More parking
· Double-parking should be immediately punished by (towing, fines)
· 52-54 Lake Park Parking Lot (what about it?)

The Task Force is pleased that I-Go Carshare and Zip Car are taking off in the neighborhood

A fine reception was held at Regents Park January 26, in recognition of the new car now in the Regents Park garage. Sen. Raoul, Ald. Preckwinkle were among residents, community org. reps. and others learning about this unique transportation alternative. Learn more about I-GO.

CTA moves #15, Task Force work praised in Herald article for a triumph in 2005 to a set of forums we had.

August 28 CTA agreed with the HPKCC Hyde Park Transit Task Force workshops and our aldermen, backed up by a big public hearing September, 2005. They said their study showed the #15 should be moved back to Lake Park, which was done effective August 28, 2005.

As the article below notes, the HPKCC www.hydepark.org at the end of August trumpets "We win one- the #15 back to Lake Park." Visit the Routes homepage in the Transit webpages to see the whole story. The article below notes the important work of the Conference and its Task Force in this achievement. The Conference appreciates the numerous mentions in the article.
Note: It is unlikely there will be further changes in the foreseeable future (short of general CTA cutbacks) despite the desire of many to see the X28 move also to Lake Park and become an all-day route again.

New #15 wins praise locally. Hyde Park Herald, August 31, 2005. By Nykeya Woods

Two years after fighting to have the #15 bus route move to Lake Park avenue, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference boasted on its website, "We win one--the #15 back to Lake Park" on Sunday, Aug. 28.

The #15 is expected to travel along Lake Park Avenue between 57th Street and East Hyde Park Boulevard instead of along south Hyde Park Boulevard.

It's something that we asked for last year and we are happy about the changes," HPKCC Transit Task Force Chairman James Withrow said. He said having the #15 along South Hyde Park Boulevard created traffic congestion. Having the route move to Lake Park Avenue is more logical because it is a commercial strip in the neighborhood and is equipped to handle the traffic. The new reroutes will provide the best travel for residents in west an central Hyde Park, he added.

The HPKCC Transit Task Force is a community-oriented group that began meeting as a result of the Chicago Transit Authority's shuffling routes in 2003 in order to help the CTA understand how riders felt. During 2004, the task force held four workshops, for input on the second reroutes that occurred for the #15 and the #28 [and X28] Stony Island local. During the workshops, residents decided that they wanted both routes to travel along Lake Park Avenue.

HPKCC's Gary Ossewaarde agreed with Withrow and said the #15 on South Hyde Park Boulevard crowded an already densely populated area. He suggested that residents and businesses would benefit from it if the route moved to Lake Park Avenue.

"Business customers for the Co-op [Markets] and residents of several high rises sought this change which they believed would better serve their needs. This change would also significantly shorten the route, including for those wishing to transfer to the #55 Garfield and #X55 Garfield Express routes, " Ossewaarde said.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said that the task force efforts were important to having the bus situation resolved. "A combination of constituent requests to our office, as well as involvement by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference task force, and a separate survey conducted by the CTA put all of this in place," Hairston said.

The only problem withrow had was that the CTA notified residents 10 days before the reroute was expected to be implemented. "We're disappointed they gave us 10-day notice before [the route] changed," he said. By doing this, he said the CTA missed a chance to show riders that they are responsive to their needs.

"We are continually evaluating our service and looking for ways to improve the transit experience for our customers," CTA Board Chairman Carole Brown said in a statement. According to CTA, analysis from CTA staff and community requests showed a preference for the bus to be rerouted down Lake Park Avenue.

The #15 reroute is one of three CTA 180-day route experiments. In other news, the CTA board approved a one-year extension agreement with the University to Chicago to continue subsidized bus services for its students...

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Task Force purpose and activities

The Transit Task Force of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (chair, James Withrow) was created to offer a voice to concerned residents over transportation issues. It works to

increase use of public transportation,

increase and improve transit service, options, and accountability,

analyze service changes,

support increased resources for transit, and

to improve mobility and access in the neighborhood and on the South Side.

We promote transit-oriented development but also complementary and necessary traditional infrastructure such as necessary parking facilities. We work with those having direct control or input into transit development including CTA, aldermen, The Chicago Transit Coalition, the University of Chicago Transportation Working Group and other community and region-wide transit advocacy and planning groups.

The Task Force maintains the Transitweb pages of www.hydepark.org as a HPKCC members and community information service. We convene small and larger meetings and workshops and occasionally hold small meetings with CTA planners and operations managers. We welcome members and non-members of HPKCC in both our larger Task Force and the Core Group.

The Task Force leadership hopes to meet with CTA soon concerning route moves (particularly the #15) and other issues. In this time of increased ridership and service improvement on the #6 we need your input on taking our neighborhood and the Southeast Side to the next level of service and connectivity.

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference's Transit Task Force improves public transportation by

Gathering transit ideas and criticism from residents and other stakeholders via community workshops and other means; working with the aldermen

Meeting with CTA to improve service in our neighborhoods

Seeking greater resources for our transit agencies

Collaborating with other neighborhood and citywide groups and institutions

Promoting public Transportation and transportation-informed planning as social goods

Building Neighborhoods Through Transit

Public transportation alleviates traffic congestion and reduces the need for parking. Neighborhoods with meaningful transit options are more walkable and accessible. Single vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for those aged 1-24 while buses and rail are much safer. Public transportation, especially rail transit (like that urged in the SECRET plan), improves urban health by reducing air pollution.

View the CTA Fare Increase Resolution of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and the Transit Task Force in the Fare Hike page. View and comment on assessment and work re: CTA bus routes (June 20, 2004).

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____________________________________________

Chairman's Report - The Case for Subsidy of Public Transportation

Withrow reiterated his stand to the Herald March 23, 2005: Time for the city and state to step up to the plate.

On October 13th, our Transit Task Force held the fourth in a series of workshops designed to improve transit in Hyde Park. This event revolved around the CTA’s financial issues. We came up with a list of reasons to subsidize public transit and I’m using that list as the backbone of this article. The reasons are the groups’ (except for the last one); the accompanying claims are mine and I can provide evidence for these assertions. Just request an electronic version with the hyperlinks by e-mailing me at Withrow@uchicago.edu.

 

REASONS TO SUBSIDIZE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

 

Air Quality. While the science of air quality is less than optimal, our best estimates are that air pollution claims at least 50,000 lives per year and that auto emissions account for over half of the air pollution in our cities. A person commuting by rail causes only one fourth the smog-causing nitrous oxide of a solo car commuter. A commuter on a bus (and the study used 10 as the number of riders apt to be on a bus) causes only two-thirds of this pollutant. The numbers for other pollutants make car travel look even worse, although a packed car or a hybrid might be better in some cases.

During the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, the city closed its downtown area to car traffic, added buses and trains, and promoted carpooling and telecommuting. During this period, Atlanta’s inner-city children on Medicaid showed a 42% decrease in asthma-related emergency room visits. Chicago has more cases of asthma per capita than anywhere else in the country, possibly because of the Lake Breeze Effect, which sweeps the air pollution caused by five million morning commuters out over the Lake where it heats in the sun, allegedly creating even more toxic combinations, only to get swept back into the city at night. The asthma death rate among African-American children in Chicago is double the national rate.

Road Accidents. In 2000, over 41,000 Americans died in motor vehicle fatalities, outnumbering those who died from breast cancer, suicide, firearms, leukemia, AIDS, poisoning or drugs. Motor vehicle injuries lead all causes of deaths among persons aged 1-24. Per passenger mile, riding a bus is 17 times safer than riding in a car and riding the el is probably safer than staying home.

Road Congestion. Cities like Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles are spending a lot of money to make transit a better option because citizens of these automobile cities have come to realize that total reliance on cars for transportation means gridlock. Mostly due to the explosion in light rail construction elsewhere, U.S. passenger miles on public transportation have grown faster than those in private vehicles since 1995.

Land Use and Property Values. Transit-oriented neighborhoods like Hyde Park are more pedestrian friendly because less real estate needs to be devoted to parking and roads. (No mode of transportation is better for air quality, crime reduction, and personal health than walking.) A study done in the Chicago area found that the property values of residences within 500 feet of a rail station were 25% higher than for similar properties without a rail station. The success of Wicker Park or neighborhoods along the Brown and Red Lines points to a growing acceptance of public transit by young people who consider it part of the urban experience.

Business. The Loop simply wouldn’t be what it is without transit, but then public transportation promotes a good business climate in much of the region. It expands the pool of potential workers for employers and expands job opportunities for those who need them the most. Transit makes shopping, entertainment, cultural and sporting events more accessible, too.

Social Welfare. Transit disproportionately serves those who need our help the most—the elderly, the disabled, the impoverished, and students. Our non-profit institutions like clinics, schools, community centers, museums, and churches need to be accessible to all.

Foreign Policy. If Americans used public transportation at the rate Canadians do, we would reduce our oil dependence by an amount equal to half a year’s oil imports from Saudi Arabia. Our balance of trade would be greatly improved and our troop presence in the Middle East would probably be reduced.

Parity. Our federal government rightly subsidizes airport and highway construction, so equal subsidizing of public transportation would only be fair. Instead, transit gets a tiny fraction of federal transportation money and then mostly for capital improvement projects. There are practically no subsidies for CTA operating expenses, but plenty of federal mandates, including para transit, which is expected to cost the CTA $50 million per year very soon. Until the federal government does the right thing and funds para transit, the state should do so, instead of making riders shoulder this burden alone. But our city government provides what may well be the largest single subsidy for the automobile, which brings us back to where I started.

Parking Subsidies. We should face the fact that residents believe the government owes them a free parking spot, preferably right in front of their homes. There’s probably no way, in this political environment, to change that expectation—a sad fact for our aldermen, I’m afraid, who have to deal with parking controversies ad nauseam. But we should admit that the city is squandering opportunity costs by providing free parking in neighborhoods. That is, the city would be within its rights to lease parking spaces on its streets to the highest bidder. That it chooses to give away these spaces, first come first serve, has resulted in a classic example of a “tragedy of the commons” where the best strategy for private interests conflicts with the public good. Hence, more cars in Hyde Park than the neighborhood was built for.

And the city’s answer to this tragedy of the commons is to build more spaces. Millennium Park, for instance, is arguably the world’s most expensive roof for a parking garage. The underground parking won’t pay for itself, as originally suggested, but instead requires a $50 million diversion of money from a TIF fund for the Loop. While the extra parking is needed to attract suburban shoppers, that’s still a major subsidy from the city on behalf of automobiles.

In our own neighborhood, TIF money will someday probably be used to build a parking garage near 53rd Street at an estimated cost of $10 million for 450 spaces. I’m in favor of that. Our local businesses need to be able to attract shoppers from a wide area and a stronger retail sector is good for Hyde Park, giving us more goods and services within walking distance—an extremely valuable component of our quality of life here. But that garage’s price tag comes out to about $22,000 per parking space.

The city’s parking subsidies don’t stop there. Unfortunately, it’s embedded in our zoning regulations, too. Practically all cities require most retail developments to provide parking for their customers, an expense that gets passed along to drivers and transit riders alike. When zoning requires residential developments to provide parking, what effect do you think that has on affordable housing? Parking regulations aren’t free.

I wish I could tell you that the City of Chicago is equally as generous when subsidizing public transportation. As you may know, the CTA receives about half its operating revenue from the farebox. Most of the rest comes from sales tax revenue. In the city, 1% of your retail purchase goes to subsidizing the CTA and, except for a paltry $3 million per year, that’s the extent of the city’s contribution. Those in suburban Cook County pay the same 1% (which gets split between the CTA, Metra, and Pace) and the collar counties pay .25% (which is split between Metra and Pace). The State of Illinois then provides a one-quarter match of the region’s transit-devoted sales tax revenue and the RTA divides that between the CTA and Pace.

The CTA is asking to change the funding formula and the agency’s data can be found online. I found it convincing on three points. Someone besides the CTA, temporarily the state perhaps, should pay for paratransit. The collar counties are being subsidized by suburban Cook County and their sales tax devoted to transit should be raised to .50%. And it’s probably right that the CTA should get a slightly larger proportion of the sales tax collected in suburban Cook County because the CTA provides over half the rides there. Because our neighborhood is served by both the CTA and Metra, I’m a little wary of any solution that leaves either agency in a worse financial position, so we should be careful about advocating for that third point.

What’s missing in the CTA’s analysis is any comparison with how other U.S. cities fund public transportation and I think there’s a reason for that. I tend to believe that the head of the CTA is running a reasonably efficient transit system and that he wants transit to succeed in Chicago—but not if it means stepping on the Mayor’s toes.

To be fair, the city has spent money on some CTA capital projects. In fact, the city, thanks in part to the help from the federal government, built and owns the Orange Line. And it’s true that the city does pay for the CTA’s security force, although most cities do the same. But other operating expenses are paid for through the sales tax and the state match. I’m not sure how we can justify asking suburban Cook County residents to contribute the same sales tax rate to transit that we contribute, when we get far better service in the city.

I urge everyone who cares about public transportation to talk to our elected officials at all levels about the importance of transit to our neighborhoods and our region. The solution to the CTA’s structural financial imbalance should involve every level of government and be broadly shared.

Transit riders are doing their part to improve air quality and property values, while reducing automobile fatalities and road congestion. Our foreign policy, business environment, and social welfare depend on parity of subsidy for public transportation. Maybe we can even solve the “parking problem”.

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October 13 2004 meeting summary by Gary Ossewaarde

 

Bus routes. All testifying were on the same page on the routes, asking for the 15 to go back to Lake Park and also the 28X (to be all day) provided the #6 is adequate--capacity and frequency in the So Hyde Park Blvd. corridor being primary--, and that these routes not yet be made permanent. CTA indicated privately that the routes would be made permanent- but revisited later. More recently CTA indicated it would extend the experimental routes another six months. A letter sent by chairman Withrow to CTA was distributed.

CTA funding. Charts from CTA and Kenneth Acoff's analysis of funding were distributed--available in the 2005 cuts/farehike page. CTA charts were discussed, said by CTA to show, for example, that current regional tax distribution formulas bear no relationship to performance and cost effectiveness of trips. Each CTA trip requires only .87 in subsidy vs. Metra in-city 1.32 and Metra collar county trips 3.63. Paratransit costs have spiraled out of sight with the lapse of federal subsidies. Comment was made that the information set forth to the public is not clear and simple enough.

Each table was asked to write 10 reasons service cutbacks should be avoided, why CTA should be subsidized if that's necessary to avoid the cuts, and what effects of cuts would be. Types of impacts included (specifics and statistics were cited):

increased congestion and travel times

pollution and air quality, health including asthma in kids

accessibility to work, healthcare, amenities, entertainment and culture and the right of access to every neighborhood in the city

connectivity with other transport modes

students, seniors, low-income and those without the auto option

unequal treatment compared with highly subsidized highways, airways, waterways

adverse effect on businesses, downtown and shopping areas, nightlife business

negative effects on property values (cf. transit responsible mortgage studies and pilot projects)

decreased property values and dampened development

price of gas/energy independence effects

Each table was asked to suggest where CTA should get more money from. Most said go to local taxpayers through gas tax, then sales, Not property. Most added the state side (or local option) could use a graduated income tax (tackle schools and other funding problems at same time--Illinois is out of tune, it was said). Gas and income were the most favored ways.

end waste, corruption and least effective spending

offer a major increase in the city subsidy, paid for by local or area taxes: sales, downtown, parking and fines, garages, gas, local income

raise locally the difference the fare box doesn't cover

graduated state income tax with lowered property tax to go to local schools, transit etc.

charge vehicles coming into the city

Also supported was changing the model of allocation from geographic to use measures--some combination of trips and miles and cost per each; reward for higher efficiency and productivity. Also suggested were modifying the farebox part, such as a zone surcharge overlay (especially for coming into downtown) or charging suburbanites more. Withrow suggested that paratransit costs should be subsidized by the mandating federal or state governments.

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General essays

Building Neighborhoods Through Transit

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference's Transit Task Force improves public transportation by:

Gathering transit ideas and criticism from residents and other stakeholders

Meeting with CTA managers and planners to review and improve service in our neighborhoods

Seeking greater resources for our transit agencies

Collaborating with other neighborhood groups on projects like SECRET (South East Chicago Rail Enhancement Team for Metra service upgrade and universal fare card) and opposing proposed changes that limit transit service or options (such as Metra station closures, Dan Ryan ramp closures

Promoting public transportation as a social good*

*Public transportation can be much more convenient and cost-effective than travel and parking with automobile, alleviates traffic congestion and reduces the need for parking. Neighborhoods with meaningful transit options are more walkable and accessible. Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for those aged 1-24 while buses and rail are much safer. Public transportation, especially rail (like the SECRET plan), improves urban health by reducing air pollution. (Did you know that Chicago is 4th highest in incidence of youth asthma?)

The Transit Task force logs service on the CTA (including the Jeffery #6 Express Bus), then brings the findings and ideas to small quarterly meetings with the CTA. We have had some successes, based on doing our homework and thinking out what will entice or nudge CTA managers and planners. We consider and promote other ways to improve community mobility, from rail and road options to improved parking and making the community more walking and biking friendly such as along Lake Park Avenue. The rail option we are looking at now with several other organizations we call SECRET ( "Gray Line Lite") : Metra Electric South Chicago Branch with 10 minute headways between 7 am and 10 pm and 30 cent CTA transfers and upgraded stations. (Learn more in the Transit Web.)

We also conduct occasional forums and debates. We seek a lively engagement with the community and public officials.

We need residents who will bring fresh ideas to Task Force Meetings and hold our feet to the fire and to help with the community forums and workshops.

We could use trend spotters and writers to help us put out the word to officials or to the community (via the Conference Reporter, www.hydepark.org, and other media). This could include a person to further develop and maintain the Transit and Transportation pages on our website. And folks to help post flyers, etc. We need to be bigger if we want to have the help of our legislators and ear of transit providers.

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An essay from the chairman, James Withrow, from the Autumn, 2004 Conference Reporter.

Transit: Does Hyde Park Have a Parking Problem?

Parking isn't really a problem in Hyde Park, but the Conference's Transit Task Force is working to solve this problem anyway.

Parking in Hyde Park has never been a problem for me personally. Of course, it helps that I don't have a car. And that's why I say that our TTF is working to solve the "parking problem". I realize that the resident circling the block looking for a space feels that there are too few spaces, but we could also say the real problem is that there are too many cars. Many households need a car or two for very good reasons, but for some a car or a second car is optional. Improving public transportation would lead to
lower rates of car ownership, thus freeing up parking spaces.

The best idea for improving transit in Southeast Chicago is the Gray Line plan promoted by Mike Payne or the less ambitious proposal I prefer, called the SECRET plan, S.E.C.R.E.T. standing for South East Chicago Rail Enhancement Team. These plans would take existing Metra service-the same
tracks, the same trains-and improve it so that Hyde Park would have the equivalent of el service. This would only entail two improvements, ten-minute service during the day and 25 cent transfers to and from CTA vehicles.

El-type rail service would gradually entice more of your neighbors to give up a car. While a monthly CTA pass costs under $1,000 per year, the typical car has a total cost of ownership between $3,000 and $6,000 per year. We shouldn't expect a rush of car-selling to occur if the Gray Line or the
SECRET plan goes into effect, but it's likely that when people need to replace or repair their cars, some of them will reconsider. And that happens often when people move to northside areas near els-- a car needs expensive repairs and instead it's sold and not replaced.

An even larger reduction in the number of cars, though, could be expected as people move in and out of Hyde Park. The typical U.S. neighborhood loses about half its residents every decade. A neighborhood with good mass transit will attract new residents who don't have cars. And we can see lower rates of automobile ownership along el lines throughout Chicago.

The most environmentally responsible mode of transportation is electric trains and this is a key selling point for the Metra improvement plans. Unfortunately, people assume these improvements will cost a lot of money. I really doubt that. Since we're talking about using the same tracks and a very modest increase of Metra electric trains, the capital costs are insignificant compared to the benefits.

And I'm not so sure that the operating costs are much to worry about, either. On a per rider basis, trains can be more efficient because an operator can move more passengers per labor hour compared to buses. No one has yet done an adequate study of the issue, but I think it's likely that this will only cost more because there will be a lot more transit riders.

When the Orange Line opened, a CTA study estimated that public transit use went up by 25% in the affected neighborhoods, so we could be looking at a way to significantly reduce the number of cars in Hyde Park.

But we might as well admit that the CTA is unlikely even to fund a small study at this point and there will be an ongoing financial crisis at the agency for as far as the eye can see unless we find a way to increase revenues. Last year, the riders did their part, absorbing a sizeable fare increase. But yearly fare increases would be a tremendous burden on the working poor and seniors living on fixed incomes. Besides, a fare increase of 10% tends to lead to ridership losses of around 2%. We need to increase
subsidies to our public transit system just like most sunbelt cities have.

On October 13th, our Transit Task Force held the fourth in a series of workshops designed to improve transit in Hyde Park. This event revolved around the CTA's financial issues. We came up with a list of reasons to subsidize public transit and I'm using that list as the backbone of this article. The reasons are the group's (except for the last one); the accompanying claims are mine and I can provide evidence for these assertions. Just request an electronic version with the hyperlinks by e-mailing me at Withrow@uchicago.edu.

REASONS TO SUBSIDIZE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Air Quality. While the science of air quality is less than optimal, our best estimates are that air pollution claims at least 50,000 lives per year nationally and that auto emissions account for over half of the air pollution in our cities. A person commuting by rail causes only one fourth the smog-causing nitrous oxide of a solo car commuter. A commuter on a bus (and the study used 10 as the number of riders apt to be on a bus) causes only two-thirds of this pollutant. Comparisons for other pollutants make car travel look even worse, although a packed car or a hybrid might be better in some cases.

During the Atlanta Summer Olympics in 1996, the city closed its downtown area to car traffic, added buses and trains, and promoted carpooling and telecommuting. During this period, Atlanta's inner-city children on Medicaid showed a 42% decrease in asthma-related emergency room visits. Chicago has more cases of asthma per capita than anywhere else in the country, possibly because of the Lake Breeze Effect, which sweeps the air pollution caused by five million morning commuters out over the Lake where it heats in the sun, allegedly creating even more toxic combinations, only to get swept back into the city at night.

Road Accidents. In 2000, over 41,000 Americans died in motor vehicle fatalities, outnumbering those who died from breast cancer, suicide, firearms, leukemia, AIDS, poisoning or drugs. Motor vehicle injuries lead all causes of deaths among persons aged 1-24. Per passenger mile, riding a bus is 17 times safer than riding in a car and riding the el is probably safer than staying home.

Road Congestion. Cities like Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles are spending a lot of money to make transit a better option because citizens of these automobile cities have come to realize that total reliance on cars for transportation means gridlock. Mostly due to the explosion in light rail construction elsewhere, U.S. passenger miles on public transportation have grown faster than those in private vehicles since 1995.

Land Use and Property Values. Transit-oriented neighborhoods like Hyde Park are more pedestrian friendly because less real estate needs to be devoted to parking and roads. (No mode of transportation is better for air quality, crime reduction, and personal health than walking.) A study done in the Chicago area found that the property values of residences within 500 feet of a rail station were 25% higher than for similar properties without a rail station. The success of Wicker Park or neighborhoods along the Brown and Red Lines points to a growing acceptance of public transit by young people who consider it part of the urban experience.

Business. The Loop simply wouldn't be what it is without transit, but then public transportation promotes a good business climate in much of the region. It expands the pool of potential workers for employers and expands job opportunities for those who need them the most. Transit makes shopping,
entertainment, cultural and sporting events more accessible, too.

Foreign Policy. If Americans used public transportation at the rate Canadians do, we would reduce our oil dependence by an amount equal to half a year's oil imports from Saudi Arabia. Our balance of trade would be greatly improved and our troop presence in the Middle East would probably be
reduced.

Social Welfare. Transit disproportionately serves those who need our help the most-the elderly, the disabled, the impoverished, and students. Our non-profit institutions like clinics, schools, community centers, museums, and churches need to be accessible.

Parity. Our federal government rightly subsidizes airport and highway construction, so equal subsidizing of public transportation would only be fair. Instead, transit gets a tiny fraction of federal transportation money and then mostly for capital improvement projects. There are practically no
subsidies for CTA operating expenses, but plenty of federal mandates, including paratransit, which is expected to cost the CTA $50 million per year very soon. Until the federal government does the right thing and funds paratransit, the state should do so, instead of making riders shoulder this burden alone. But our city government provides what may well be the largest single subsidy for the automobile, which brings us back to where I started.

Parking Subsidies. We should face the fact that residents believe the government owes them a free parking spot, preferably right in front of their homes. There's probably no way in this political environment to change that expectation-a sad fact for our aldermen, I'm afraid, who have to deal with
parking controversies ad nauseum. But we should admit that the city is squandering opportunity costs by providing free parking in neighborhoods. That is, the city would be within its rights to lease parking spaces on its streets to the highest bidder. That it chooses to give away these spaces, first come first serve, has resulted in a classic example of a "tragedy of the commons" where the best strategy for private interests conflicts with the public good. Hence, more cars in Hyde Park than the neighborhood was built for.

And the city's answer to this tragedy of the commons is to build more spaces. Millennium Park, for instance, is arguably the world's most expensive roof for a parking garage. The underground parking won't pay for itself, as originally suggested, but instead requires a $50 million diversion of money from a TIF fund for the Loop. While the extra parking is needed to attract suburban shoppers, that's still a major subsidy from the city on behalf of automobiles.

In our own neighborhood, TIF money will someday probably be used to build a parking garage near 53rd Street at an estimated cost of $10 million for 450 spaces. I'm in favor of that. Our local businesses need to be able to attract shoppers from a wide area and a stronger retail sector is good for Hyde Park, giving us more goods and services within walking distance-an extremely valuable component of our quality of life here. But that garage's price tag comes out to about $22,000 per parking space.

The city's parking subsidies don't stop there. Unfortunately, it's embedded in our zoning regulations, too. Practically all cities require most retail developments to provide parking for their customers, an expense that gets passed along to drivers and transit riders alike. When zoning requires residential developments to provide parking, what effect do you think that has on affordable housing? Parking space regulations aren't free.

I wish I could tell you that the City of Chicago is equally as generous when subsidizing public transportation. As you may know, the CTA receives about half its operating revenue from the farebox. Most of the rest comes from sales tax revenue. In the city, 1% of your retail purchase goes to
subsidizing the CTA and, except for a paltry $3 million per year, that's the extent of the city's monetary contribution. Those in suburban Cook County pay the same 1% (which gets split between the CTA, Metra, and Pace) and the collar counties pay .25% (which is split between Metra and Pace). The State
of Illinois then provides a one-quarter match of the region's transit-devoted sales tax revenue and the RTA divides that between the CTA and Pace.

The CTA is asking to change the funding formula and the agency's data can be found online. I found it convincing on three points. Someone besides the CTA, temporarily the state perhaps, should pay for paratransit, which is an unfunded federal mandate expected to cost $50 million per year very soon.
The collar counties are being subsidized by suburban Cook County and their sales tax devoted to transit should be raised to .50%. And it's probably right that the CTA should get a slightly larger proportion of the sales tax collected in suburban Cook County because the CTA provides over half the
rides there. Because our neighborhood is served by both the CTA and Metra, I'm a little wary of any solution that leaves either agency in a worse financial position, so we should take care on that last item.

What's missing in the CTA's analysis is any comparison with how other U.S. cities fund public transportation and I think there's a reason for that. I tend to believe that the head of the CTA is running a reasonably efficient transit system and that he wants transit to succeed in Chicago-but not if it means stepping on the Mayor's toes.

To be fair, the city has spent money on some CTA capital projects. In fact, the city, thanks in large part to the help from the federal government, built and owns the Orange Line. And it's true that the city does pay for the CTA's security force, although most cities do the same. But other operating
expenses are paid for through the sales tax and the state match. I'm not sure how we can justify asking suburban Cook County residents to contribute the same sales tax rate to transit that we contribute when we get far better service in the city.

I urge everyone who cares about public transportation to talk to our elected officials at all levels about the importance of transit to our neighborhoods and our region. [edited out but the crux of Withrow's argument: The solution to the CTA's structural financial imbalance should involve every level of government and be broadly shared. ]

Transit riders are doing their part to improve air quality and property values, while reducing automobile fatalities and road congestion. Our foreign policy, business environment, and social welfare depend on parity of subsidy for public transportation. With improved funding and service, maybe
we can even solve Hyde Park's "parking problem".


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Chairman: James Withrow, HPKCC e-mail

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