Now Is the Time to Fund Cook County’s Transit Future
The past few weeks have proven to be a pivotal few for the Transit Future campaign and, indeed, for the future of transit in Cook County.
On the evening of June 18th, Congressman Mike Quigley joined us in Chicago to show his support for transit expansion, addressing a room full of elected officials, business leaders, and other Transit Future supporters. Quigley, who serves on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriation committee, shared his transportation expertise with the packed room. He told us that President Obama wants a major infrastructure package before he leaves office and, if Cook County wants a slice of that federal funding, we need to be prepared and organized across levels of government with a dedicated revenue stream that we can use as a local match.
The Congressman’s message for coordination and local funding could not have come at a better time. The day before his speech, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of Transit Future and our goals of transit expansion in Cook County. At the beginning of July, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle proposed a one percentage point sales tax increase that would shore up problems from the past and pave the way for ending the diversion of gas tax dollars, which would free up money for transit expansion and other transportation needs. The tax increase would end the current diversion of gas tax dollars in order to fund improvements and expansions of our outdated public transportation system. The vote on the sales tax increase is scheduled for July 15.
At our event, Congressman Quigley reminded us that we’re still using infrastructure we built during the Great Depression. Our current hub-and-spoke transit system is outdated and fails to connect our still-growing communities today.
We at the Center for Neighborhood Technology and Active Transportation Alliance, leaders of the Transit Future campaign, support the proposed sales tax increase as an important step in addressing problems of the past. Allocating sales tax revenue to the pension system now can free up resources down the road, and we challenge the commissioners to look further down that road by investing in Cook County’s public transit infrastructure.
Establishing a dedicated revenue stream for transit expansion in Cook County is an investment with a continuing return for the entire region. It would reduce the amount that Cook County residents currently spend on car ownership and transportation, stimulate new investment adjacent to transit lines, and reduce the number of cars on roads and highways, improving traffic flow and easing wear and tear on infrastructure.
The sales tax increase addresses obligations of the past so that now we can look to the future.