ITEF Comment Vol. XIV Issue 2
Millions Of Dollars Wasted On Redundant Douglas “L” Line As Taxpayers’ Warnings Are Ignored
“I hate to say I told you so,” said Jim Tobin, President of National Taxpayers United of Illinois (NTUI), “but I told you so. Despite declining ridership, millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted on rebuilding Chicago’s 19th-Century transportation rail system.”
Tobin referred to the hundreds of millions wasted on the renovation of the Douglas Park “Blue Line.” On March 16, 2008, Chicago media carried the announcement that the Chicago Transit Authority would eliminate 54th-Cermak branch of the Blue Line service in April due to low ridership. During the morning rush hour, the Cermak branch of the line carried an average of only 10 riders per rail car. The Blue Line 54th-Cermak branch served the fewest customers per rail car of any CTA line.
Most of the 54th-Cermak route will be partially supplanted by the Pink Line, with an average daily ridership of only 26,000 (compared with the Brown Line’s 90,000). The route change was done over the objections of neighborhood groups, such as the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (firstname.lastname@example.org), which objected to the disruption of a long-established route.
Over the years, politicians have thrown many millions of taxpayer dollars down the CTA rat hole, despite its moribund ridership. On June 15, 1999, then Governor and convicted felon, George Ryan (R) signed Senate Bill 1203, a monstrous pork barrel spending bill that, among other things, resulted in the issuing of $1.5 billion in bonds for rail and mass transit facilities, including rebuilding of the redundant Douglas Blue Line.
On numerous occasions, NTUI sent letters to members of the Illinois General Assembly and to the entire Illinois delegation in the House of Representatives in Washington, explaining how subsidies for the reconstruction of the Douglas Line, including huge Federal grants that accompanied such local expenditures, were a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.
A series of commentaries issued by the Illinois Taxpayer Education Foundation (ITEF) pointed out the futility of spending $482 million rebuilding a six-mile section of the Blue Line, which worked out to more than $75 million per mile of track. ITEF disclosed that the line’s ridership levels were at 20 percent of the peak level reached in the 1920s, and that Chicago’s west side was already served by the Congress L, which ran a parallel line just 1.5 miles to the north. The foundation stated that using $20 million worth of busses along Ogden and Cermak would actually provide better service to the Douglas L neighborhood.
“The Chicago Transit Authority is a financial black hole,” Tobin has stated many times. “It soaks up money like a dry sponge, paying huge salaries and generous benefits to its union employees. And much this money goes to subsidize technology of the 1800s. This is the 21st Century! There are technologies that can do much better for less money. It’s time taxpayers demand a housecleaning at the CTA, and demand that their representatives in Springfield cease funding these wasteful, pork barrel projects such as they did with the renovation of the Blue Line.”