Lori doubles down on her resistance to frequent, affordable South Side Metra

Lightfoot greeting CTA customers at the 95th Street CTA station during the mayoral campaign. Photo via Active Trans.
Lightfoot greeting CTA customers at the 95th Street CTA station during the mayoral campaign. Photo via Active Trans.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has taken a lot of heat recently for the Chicago Public Schools strike. But right now I’m annoyed about her stubborn refusal to cooperate with her former mayoral rival Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle on a proposal to increase service and lower fares on South Side Metra routes. As Streetsblog reporter and David Zegeye pointed out last month, the plan would have huge benefits for many South Siders on a fixed budget, who currently have to choose between fast, direct Metra runs that are infrequent and pricey, and cheaper, more frequent CTA journeys that are indirect and slow.

But Lori dug in her heels, arguing that more convenient and affordable Metra Electric and Rock Island District service would cannibalize CTA ridership. While the plan is projected to cost the CTA as much as $15 million a year in revenue, the proposal includes a county subsidy to cover any loss of revenue to the CTA or Metra.

An interview with the Crain’s editorial board last week revealed that Lightfoot still hasn’t seen the light on this issue. “We are looking at [the plan],” she said. “But I’m yet to be convinced that this will endure to the benefit of the Chicago Transit Authority… I am not taking passengers from the CTA and putting them on Metra with a subsidy. I’m not going to be part of anything that reduces ridership on the CTA.”

As we previously stated, our leaders’ transit policies shouldn’t be based on what the effect on ridership would be for the agency they happen to control — in Lightfoot’s case that’s the CTA. The goal should be doing whatever it takes to improve the commutes, and therefore the lives, of Chicago residents, especially those in underserved communities.

And, as our readers have pointed out, even if the initiative results in some loss of ridership on CTA bus routes between the South Side and the Loop, resources could be redirected to east-west lines that serve the Red and Green lines. That could actually boost overall CTA ridership in the long run.

So Mayor Lightfoot, once you resolve things with the Chicago Teacher’s Union, please sit down at the negotiating table with President Preckwinkle, set aside petty territorial concerns, and get the Metra deal done. It’s the right thing to do for South Side straphangers.