Monday, May 7, 2007

Slipping Down the Priority List

Today's Crain's has an article by Brandon Glenn entitled "More State Transit Money Would Take 'Crisis,' 2 Experts Say." The two experts are David Schulz, director of the Infrastructure Technology Institute at Northwestern University, and Joseph DiJohn, executive director of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Urban Transportation Center.

The thrust of the article is that it will take higher fares or drastically reduced service (or both) before the State of Illinois will be prompted to increase State financial support for public transit. Mr. DiJohn is quoted as saying that public transit funding "is probably No. 5 or 6 of the list of priorities" for the Governor and the General Assembly.

I believe that weeks ago a spokesperson for the Governor stated publicly that public transit was next on the Governor's priority list after his health care and educating initiatives, and the revenue stream necessary to fund them, had been put in place. It sounds like Mr. DiJohn puts transit funding somewhat farther down the list.

The article also reports that Representative Hamos' Mass Transit Committee has been running the numbers on various funding possibilities. It sure would be nice to see those scenarios. She said that "nothing is likely to happen regarding transit funding, or any other issue, until Gov. Blagojevich’s gross-receipts tax proposal is accepted or rejected."

It sure can't help that Transportation for Illinois Coalition, a creation of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the charge against the Governor's gross receipts tax proposal, has a picture on its homepage of Jim Reilly, the RTA's Chairman sitting behind the dais at a TFIC Springfield rally. Why would anyone in the Governor's office want to fund an organization (the RTA) that has allied itself with the group that is leading the charge against the Governor's effort to raise more State revenue?

The article also suggests that the RTA will not be releasing the details of the doomsday plans from the service boards until the June RTA board meeting. The General Assembly, however, is scheduled to adjourn before then. Either the RTA is betting on an extended legislative session (reasonably good odds) or it has decided not to duplicate the CTA's doomsday scenarios from the past two legislative sessions that apparently alienated many legislators.

Of course, those doomsday scenarios resulted in more than $100 million of additional operating money for transit over the past two years. We will see how the RTA's more statemanlike approach will fare.


Anonymous said...

DiJohn and Schulz celebrity wrestling to benefit paratransit funding shortfalls would be more valuable than expert comments.

Moderator said...

Where do we buy tickets?