Saturday, January 20, 2007

Essential Reading: Greg Hinz on the CTA's meltdown

When the Chicago Transit Authority announced its latest and greatest outrage - slowdowns on the Red, Brown and Purple lines that will double the commute times of homebound riders for a two and a half year period - the general reaction was that of Chicago Magazine business correspondent David Greising on a week ago Chicago Week in Review on WTTW: shrug your shoulders and predict the response of CTA riders will be to do nothing, because "What choice do they have?"

Now, a brilliant analysis by the indispensable Greg Hinz in Crain's Chicago Business lays out in compelling detail how the current meltdown in CTA service is a matter not just of aging infrastructure and chronic underfunding, but of a willful incompetence on the part of President Frank Kreusi and CTA management that consistently neglected basic maintenance in favor of splashy, expensive and often questionable mega-projects like a $130,000,000 station under Block 37 for an express service to the city's airports that does not exist.

In Kreusi's typically cynical fashion, the service cutbacks that will decimate the number of trains and make the P.M. commute for hundreds of thousands of riders a living hell have been put off until April. Kreusi is no doubt remembering how, after a massive 1979 snowstorm, the breakdown of the CTA and decision to run trains express, bypassing blacks waiting on the platforms of inner city stations, ended with the stunning and unprecedented defeat of machine Democratic mayor Michael Bilandic. 2007 is also an election year, and Kreusi's scheduling protects this year's incumbents - mayoral and alderman - from being held accountable when the full force of his failed management hits the fan.

Greg Hinz's intensive research and cogent analysis means it won't be quite so easy to sweep it all under the rug. Read it here.


Anonymous said...

Well Lynn, perhaps this can help explain your insipid question:

The questions isn't why is money being misappropriated, but rather why is Springfield not interested in supported the CTA with proper funding yet heartily funding new highway construction such as the 355 expansion? Isn't Chicago the central core of the whole metropolitan area? Are politicians in Springfield and even at the federal level that apathetic that they just don't care about making sure that the 2nd largest rapid transit system in the country runs the way it should?? Perhaps you should ask these types of questions before posting rhetorical gibberish, or do you just like reading what you right? That is my question to you.

Lynn Becker said...

Dear even-surlier-than-myself person:

"Springfield" is not some abstract "them" bogeyman. It is controlled by the Democrats, basically because Chicago voters have installed Democrats in every one of the city's - and many close-in suburbs - legislative seats, in both houses, forming the bedrock of ongoing Democratic majorities. We've handed the Democrats Springfield on a platter, just as we've handed them the City Council. What more could we to be expected to do? Deliver bribe money personally?

If you really want to get funding for the CTA, you don't make your lead person someone like Frank Kreusi, whose compulsive personal modus operandi (remember the midnight raid on Meigs?) is a raised middle finger - whether to CTA riders or to Springfield legislators, to the point where he is despised by the Speaker of the House and reviled by countless others. It's called politics, dear anonymous, and you don't get get far with "give me money or I'll shoot these passengers" threats or by spitting in the face of those who have what you want.