Friday, February 9, 2007

More Media Response to MBC Final Report

There was a bit of a morning after hangover tone to the media coverage of the Moving Beyond Congestion's final Report.

Joe Ryan, whose Daily Herald beat is focused on the good burghers of suburbia, was the most pessimistic. His story opened with the two ominous paragraphs:

Key politicians plugged their ears Thursday to cries from business, labor and transit advocates to relieve congestion through $5 billion in new taxes for road, train and bus repairs and upgrades.

At the same time, sparring between Chicago and suburban leaders appears to be undermining once-budding local support for one of Illinois’ biggest transportation packages ever.

Apparently Joe didn't interview Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi, who was quoted by WBBM 780 as follows:

CTA President Frank Kruesi noted that the turf wars of recent years have given way to unanimity in the lobbying effort, and called it "an extraordinary day.”

Truly an extraordinary day if such is the case.

The same article reports that the RTA Chairman has not yet met with the Governor to discuss the MBC's proposals, a somewhat troubling confession from someone leading the charge to extract up to $12 billion in new State money over the next five years.

The Northwest Indiana Times, in an article under the misleading headline "RTA: Transit Seeks $2 Billion State Boost," takes the novel approach of interviewing a few people on the street about the recently released 136 page report packed full of facts and figures. The comments are predictable. People want substantially better transit service for little or no new money.

The Chicago Tribune talked to Julie Hamos, the head of the House Committee on Mass Transit. She stated that the Committee will hold hearings on the MBC proposals next month. Hamos welcomed the fact that the Report did not propose a specific package of revenue enhancements:

It's probably a good idea the RTA did not give us a specific funding approach. Then it's too easy to shoot it down," Hamos said. "It makes sense to put forward a whole set of options. Then we'll see if we can forge a bipartisan consensus."

Such a bipartisan consensus might be tough to build, if comments from the Govenor's office are any indication. The article goes on to quote a spokesperson from that office as saying: "It would be shortsighted of the RTA to rely solely on the state to fill its budget needs." Speaker Madigan's office was equally lukewarm, according to the article.

It is a long road ahead. Hopefully, the RTA, the service boards and the other MBC proponents can be nimble enough in Springfield to put together under tight time pressures a package of cost-saving operational efficiencies and reasonable revenue enhancements that can at least preserve the existing public transit system in good order.

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