CTA to Waste $1.2 Billion in Red Line Boondoggle

CHICAGO- The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is underway with a project that would extend the Red Line’s reach past its current ending point at 95th and Dan Ryan to three miles farther south, at 130th St. This proposed “solution” comes at the cost of $1.2 billion for taxpayers.

NTUI’s Nick Mestad testifies on behalf of the Gray Line solution to the CTA Board October 6, 2010.

The CTA cites the problem as being a lack of public transportation available to residents of the far south side of Chicago and the southern suburbs, resulting in congested bus and passenger conditions on the existing terminal stations. But this costly and time consuming solution (estimates have the extension opening in 2016) overlooks a much simpler and cost-efficient answer: utilizing the Metra Electric District Main Line that already stops at three of the four streets the Red Line extension wants to build at.

This Metra Electric solution, also known as the Gray Line, proposes that the Metra Highliner II trains be utilized by the CTA during certain times of the day to accommodate the transportation demands of the southern residents. The price for organizing this would be $200 million, a far cry from the $1.4 billion the CTA currently plans to spend. At the same cost as any CTA transit fee, southern residents can have easy access to public transportation without the CTA having to waste $1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money to build a costly extension.

Not only would the Gray Line provide CTA ‘L’ service to each of the streets to be served by the Red Line extension, but also the entire Southeast Lakefront Corridor; from downtown, through the Museum Campus and McCormick Place, Bronzeville, Hyde Park, the University of Chicago, Woodlawn, South Shore, South Chicago and the new USX Redevelopment.

The CTA has moved the proposed Red Line extension to its number one priority among major capital improvement projects and is already in the secondary stages of its inception. The alternative plans offered on CTA’s website do not consider the Gray Line option and overlook this cost-efficient solution.

To help prevent the CTA from wasting $1.2 billion of Taxpayer’s money, call Deborah Lopez, CTA’s Senior Officer for Government Relations at (312) 681-2708 and recommend the Gray Line Solution.

For more information on the Gray Line Proposal, visit http://www.grayline.20m.com/

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3 Responses

  1. taxpayer says:

    CTA has repeatedly wasted money on big capital projects when there were much cheaper ways to solve the problem. Other examples: Brown Line platform lengthening, Block 37 subway station, Howard-Dan Ryan subway connection. Providing more funding to CTA is unlikely to improve actual transit service, unless management priorities change.

    Reminds me of a quote attributed to the former Mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, noted for its innovative and efficient bus rapid transit system: “If we had had as much money as you have in Chicago, we probably would have wasted it. Since we had little, we had to use it intelligently.”

    This is not an argument against using tax funds for public transportation, since good public transportation improves life for all city dwellers. But these funds must be put in competent and honest hands.

  2. Harvey I Kahler says:

    I’m glad to see someone pick up on the idea of exploiting the Metra Electric more fully as an existing transit asset for the South Side.
    As a transportation planner for two decades, I knew a good idea when I saw one. Mike Payne originally conceived the idea for the Metra Electric South Chicago Branch and Mainline to 115th/Kensington; and I urged him to expand the scope to Blue Island and Kensington in light of the proposed Red Line Extension and commented to the CTA and RTA on this.
    It’s no surprise that Metra was not considered as an alternative – the Red Line Extension is an autonomous CTA proposal; and it’s the same old story that RTA coordination is non-existent.
    Of course the neighborhood wants closer effective rail service; and the Red Line is what is offered.
    Area residents don’t want to pay the higher Metra fares in Zone C and feel equally entitled as for the North Side; but monthly passes actually are cheaper than for CTA in Zones A & B even if 1-way fares are higher, so operating costs cannot be so different and CTA costs also would be higher for the extra distance of an extension.

    • Dave says:

      Fares charged bear little relationship to operating costs. CTA (and presumably Metra) have different operating costs for every line they operate… yet to make fares reasonably simply to understand, they charge one set of prices. Many businesses do this… for example, movies may cost between $500K and $100M to film… but theaters charge a uniform $10-11 each for all of them.

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