Monday, June 11, 2007

one way to really move beyond congestion

We've had way too many Chicken Little moments concerning CTA/RTA transit funding in the last few years. The city and state have not been willing to take meaningful steps to find a longer term solution so that we're not hearing screams of "funding crisis" every year and seeing the quality of service and safety of our trains and buses deteriorate.

One way we could plug the budget gap and help relieve traffic congestion would be to institute a congestion charge in the Loop, River North, Streeterville and perhaps a small surrounding area. This idea has been used in London for a few years now and has been recently proposed for Manhattan. Here's another link on London's situation. Here's a short New Yorker item about the situation in NYC.

Revenues raised from a Loop congestion charge could be used for CTA maintenance and operating expenses. Reduced traffic (and vehicles idling for less time) would improve quality of life downtown by improving air quality, reducing noise, reducing accidents, and reducing road rage. This is likely to encourage people to walk more downtown, and shop and dine more there, which would be good for both public health and the local economy.

Another revenue source would be an increased state income tax. This would be a more progressive and fair solution than an increased sales tax, which puts a disproportionate burden on poorer people. Use some of that additional income revenue for public transit funding, and use the rest to help plug the state budget gap.

While I don't expect either of these solutions to be popular, it's long past due for our aldermen, Mayor Daley, state legislators, and Governor Blagojevich to bite the bullet and approve a longer term solution. It's time stop crying like Chicken Little, to solve the problem before the sky really does fall.

Whaddya say, folks? Can you stop playing chicken with our state economy and our lives?

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