April 11th, 2005

flavored with age

Chicago Transit Atrocity

MAN THAT'S A CLEVER HEADER, I slay me.

Our little public transportation pecadillo has finally made national headlines. It's a tough thing to figure out; there's no doubt that the crappy economy (thanks, President Bush!) and the massive budget crisis caused by federal cuts and deficit spending (thanks, President Bush!) aren't helping the situation. But, as the article points out, there's also the fact that the suburbs are booming (thanks, white flight!) and, as a result, are draining a lot of tax revenue that formerly was used for the city. Hmmmm, the conservative outlands bitching about the evils of the big cities while simultaneously not pulling their weight. Where have I heard that before? (Thanks, blue states!) Not mentioned in the article is the massive salary drawn by the new director of the CTA or the big payoffs he's given to his ward and business cronies; in fact, his second act after taking the helm was to give himself a fat pay hike (his first was to fire a shitload of union operators and mechanics).

It's a mess, that's for sure, and one with no easy way out and no obvious villain (although the dirty, sticky hands of conservatives are never far away from the center of the mess). It's really just a matter of a failure at very high levels to recognize that public transportation is not a luxury, but a necessity, and that the proposed fare hike (to a jaw-dropping $2.50, far and away the most expensive in the country) will form a substantial financial burden to a lot of working people. Downstaters will bitch and moan that they shouldn't have to pay for a program that sucks up tons of tax revenue and only benefits those who live in the cities, but as usual, you won't hear them complain that those same city dwellers -- five million of them, vastly outnumbering the rural and suburban populations -- generate most of that tax revenue in the first place. Downstate Republicans are always the first to complain when "their" tax money goes to fund the CTA or the CHA or some other program geared towards the urban worker, but they never say a word of thanks when their own pet programs get funded by the huge tax base created and sustained by city dwellers.

No one will benefit if urban workers can't get to work. The tax base will dwindle, consumer spending will lull (leading to a decrease in sales tax, which fattens the budget), and unemployment will increase, leading to a higher demand for government-funded social services. Once again, principle trumps pragmatism, and the need to take a moral high ground against those shameful city dwellers and their profilagate spending becomes more important than the simple recognition that public transit is an absolute need that isn't going away so we might as well admit that and deal with it.

On the other hand, the SCTV season 2 DVD set is really good.