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Beyond Chicagoland

That’ll play in Peoria: Trump’s Illinois transit funding tweet is stale news

6:54 PM CDT on August 14, 2020

An unofficial Trump campaign bus. Image: CBS17.com

Correction 8/19/20: The Active Transportation Alliance tweeted in response to Trump's Twitter post, "This is a new celebration of old federal aid." Asked for more info on the subject, ATA spokeperson Kyle Whitehead said, "The President’s tweet references funding from the CARES Act back in March, which is not enough to sustain transit agencies for the duration of this crisis."

However, Pace spokesperson Maggie Daly-Skoggsbaken said Trump's tweet actually refers to a federal discretionary grant that has no connection with the CARES or FAST acts. "It’s recent," she said yesterday. "We got word week before last."

"Ahh, sorry for my mixup," said Whitehead.

So, apologies to Streetsblog readers, this post was based on incorrect secondhand info, which I should have double-checked before publishing. It just proves the old reporter saying, "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."

Earlier today I thought I'd spotted a unicorn: A Donald Trump tweet about my home state that wasn't awful. After all, Trump loves to tweet offensive statements about crime and civil unrest in Democratic cities like Chicago as a distraction from his administration's failure to adequately address the COVID-19 crisis and his other political woes. So when I saw this tweet from Wednesday (H/T Jeff Zoline), my first reaction was that the Donald was actually sharing good news about transit funding on social media.

ATA's action alert to Congress calls for $32 billion in relief for transit agencies in Chicago and nationwide. "We’re been working with peer advocates in cities across the U.S. and in D.C. on this effort and were recently part of a national virtual rally that featured [Chicago congressional rep] Chuy Garcia – who’s been leading this effort in the House," said spokesman Kyle Whitehead. "Other Chicago area members have also been very supportive, but it’s not clear where the White House and Senate GOP stand."

Whitehead added that the CARES Act funding is not enough to help transit agencies survive the pandemic, when ridership and revenue have plummeted, without resorting to drastic service cuts and/or fare hikes. Currently, projections indicate the Regional Transit Authority, which allocates money to the CTA, Pace, and Metra, will run out of funds in 2021.

So while Trump's transit tweet was relatively inoffensive and truthful, compared to his usual depressingly low bar, it wasn't actually saying anything new, but was rather a case of pandering to Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and the 'burbs. But, hey, he wasn't blatantly lying or saying anything racist, so maybe we should count that as a win.

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