Thanks Dr. Wilson! Millionaire eases traffic jams by giving away $200K in free CTA tickets

Photos: Ballotpedia, John Greenfield
Photos: Ballotpedia, John Greenfield

Note: The following is satire.

It looks like we’ve got a new nominee for Streetsblog’s sustainable transportation heroes of the year awards!

Dr. Willie Wilson, the Chicago millionaire and perennial political candidate, who has run for mayor of our city, U.S. Senator from Illinois, and president of the United States, showed himself to be a true man of the people today. He donated $200,000 of his personal fortune to ease the pain for Chicagoans currently struggling with transportation costs with a free CTA ticket giveaway this morning.

In 2018 Wilson handed out $200,000 in free cash to residents, which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he was running for mayor at the time. “But as a man of faith, this time I decided to take a ‘teach a man to fish’ approach by giving folks a hand up rather than a handout,” Wilson told Streetsblog Chicago in an interview this morning. “In the long run, it’s more helpful to make it easier for people to commute to school, jobs, and medical appointments than to simply give them money.”

As such, Wilson purchased $190,000 worth of CTA Ventra tickets, and then spent $10,000 to pay young people $25 an hour to distribute the tickets at 50 bus stops and ‘L’ stations in South and West side communities. In these neighborhoods, transportation costs disproportionately impact low-income and working-class residents.

“I’m sure some motorists would have like to have seen me use that money to pay for free gasoline to enable them to drive more,” Wilson said. “But why should I line the pockets of wealthy oil executives, when I can help out dozens of at-risk youth by providing them with a day of good-paying employment? Meanwhile, the free bus and train service will assist hard-working Chicagoans with getting where they need to go in an efficient manner and save them money.”

But isn’t it unfair for Wilson to let transit riders reap all the benefits of his generosity, while leaving drivers out in the cold by subsidizing sustainable, rather than unsustainable, transportation? And just think of Russian president Vladimir Putin. He’s counting on American car-dependence to make the current boycott of Russian oil politically unpopular, so that U.S. president Joe Biden is forced to lift the import ban, helping to fund Putin’s “special military operation” to liberate Ukraine.

“Putin can suck it,” Wilson responded bluntly. “If I used that $200 grand to pay for free gas for Chicago drivers at, say, ten gas stations in neighborhoods across Chicago, sure, that PR stunt would score me a few points with motorists. But it would do absolutely nothing to help the hundreds of thousands of South and West side residents who can’t afford to drive, or are physically unable to do so. That includes many low-income folks, people with disabilities, seniors, and kids. That just wouldn’t be right.”

“And free gas would actually make things worse for vulnerable residents,” the McDonald’s franchisee and medical supplies mogul added. “Just think of the long lines of drivers waiting to get into gas stations, causing massive traffic jams. That would slow down CTA buses, making it harder for folks who rely on transit to get where they need to go. Heck, it would make getting around the city a pain in the neck for all Chicagoans, including motorists. Not to mention that all that extra driving and idling would mean more crashes and pollution, which is the last thing our city needs. Lord, what a foolish idea!”

WGN-TV, Skycam 9 reporter Sarah Jindra marveled at the refreshing lack of traffic jams during the morning commute. “Wow, if one day of free CTA rides can have such a positive impact on congestion and air quality, just think of what our city would be like if we had affordable, fast, and reliable transit 365 days a year!”

And CTA spokesperson Brian Steele said that the agency is very grateful for the millionaire’s forward-thinking generosity. In fact, Steele said, the CTA board voted this morning to rename Uptown’s Wilson ‘L’ station in his honor as the Willie Wilson stop. Check out one of the new signs below.

Screen Shot 2022-03-19 at 2.41.28 PM
New signs at the Willie Wilson station. Photo: John Greenfield

Sadly, this post is a work of fiction. In reality Dr. Wilson gave away $200K in free gasoline, causing drivers to waste time and fuel while waiting in incredibly long lines, creating horrible traffic jams all over the city.