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ATA launches petition to counter Lightfoot’s opposition to South Side Metra plan

7:32 PM CST on December 4, 2019

Photo: Active Trans

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot scored a win for sustainable transportation last week by passing a new fairer ride-hail tax structure that will help unclog downtown streets and fund better bus service. But when it comes to the proposal to increase service and lower fares on South Side Metra routes, she's still on the wrong side of the issue.

Lightfoot has stubbornly refused to cooperate with her former mayoral rival Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle on the plan, which 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 slow and circuitous.

Lightfoot has argued 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. "I’m yet to be convinced that this will endure to the benefit of the Chicago Transit Authority," she told the Crain’s editorial board in October. "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.”

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.

Fortunately, yesterday the Active Transportation Alliance launched a new petition drive to counter the mayor's opposition. "Many parts of Chicago's South Side and South Suburbs lack access to fast, frequent public transit service," the petition notes. "Far too many Southland neighborhoods suffer from decades of disinvestment resulting from structural racism and discrimination. But better service and lower fares on Metra trains could be a big step forward... More frequent and affordable service would offer better access to jobs, improve quality of life, and encourage economic development in South Side and South Suburban communities."

Active Trans notes that "the talks have hit a snag as politics and inter-agency competition are predictably getting in the way. The region has come too far with this plan for it to fall apart at this stage." The petition allows supporters of the plan to urge elected officials to cooperate and make the three-year pilot a reality.

Preckwinkle was scheduled to speak about the Metra plan at tonight's Active Trans annual member meeting.

Click here to sign the petition for affordable, frequent Metra service.

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