Skip to comments.And the Red Ink Flows Freely on the Red Line
Posted on 04/28/2012 7:10:24 PM PDT by jfd1776
What Chicagoans now call The Red Line is a century-old commuter train, part of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). It runs all the way from Howard Street on the north to 95th Street on the south.
As Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah famously said of nearby Lake Shore Drive, itll take you from rags on up to riches in just fifteen minutes. But unlike the scenic LSD, this train line can also give you a close-up view of some pretty rough neighborhoods, making some stations very dangerous. And the more dangerous a place is, the more you put off repairing it, until the cost of needed repairs winds up being as high as it can possibly be.
Chicagos Mayor Emanuel (D, Wilmette) and Governor Quinn (D, Moscow) have announced that theyll put off these repairs no longer. Announcing a billion dollar repair bill for the total CTA plan, they expect to spend some $86 million in 2012 on temporary fixes for seven of the Red Lines north side stations alone.
On the one hand, no responsible commentator would claim that some repairs arent needed. I grew up in Evanston, and both my father and my grandmother started their daily rail commute at the Howard El station every day for years. I saw the line deteriorate even then, and that was decades ago. Yes, the line needs work.
But on the other hand, no responsible politician proposes a billion dollars in new spending when the city, county, and state are bankrupt, when tax rates have already been hiked past the breaking point, when unfunded pension obligations alone have a claim on all anticipated revenue for decades, when the economy is stagnant with no prospect for real recovery on the horizon.
Now, the Red Line runs through some areas with money the short stretch from the Lincoln Park area to Downtown. But the majority of the line now runs through areas of lower incomes on the south side, some of the very lowest and most jobless. And much of the housing near the far north end is made up of nursing homes, whose residents have long since stopped commuting for work.
In short, while there is still ridership, the economics of public transit are terrible on this line. The city cant afford to help much, and while fares can be raised, they cant possibly be raised enough to pay for it all, at a time when transit really must find a way to pay for itself.
Consider how airports and highway oases deal with these needs: they contract out space to concessions. Not just to pay for themselves, but hopefully to contribute a sizable profit to help cover the governments cost of the stations themselves. Airports make a pretty penny on the rent from all those Wolfgang Puck, Starbucks, and McDonalds franchises, not to mention the sales taxes from bookstores and souvenir shops.
Perhaps the city of Chicago could save money by thinking bigger as long as the private developers absorbed the risk, rather than piling still more risk on the CTA, an economic model already in likely irreversible decline as our economy is transformed.
Even if more of these neighborhoods come back, through gentrification and general economic growth, there will be more jobs far away from the tracks than are created upon them, more small businesses operated out of the house, more employees working by telecommuting than ever before. For the economic model of commuter rail in Chicago to recover, they need many, many larger improvements.
Chicago must control crime. Many Chicago trains and their stations are dangerous, particularly at non-rush times. A larger police presence has a cost, one that the city can ill afford. The logical solution is to fix whats wrong with our criminal justice system. We DO catch every criminal, but we let them go. And this must stop.
Chicago must broaden its tax base. Chicago politicians have driven businesses and private taxpayers alike out of the city, the county, and the state through their century of dominance. Instead of focusing on the long-term good of their city, the Democrat machine has been working for its own short-term gain concentrating on re-elections and ghost-payrolling, on small-time bribery and big-time villainy, while the residential neighborhoods and local businesses crumbled around them.
The Red Line is a symptom of a city in decline; if it were not in decline, it would never have allowed these stations to fall so far into disrepair. And like most ills, the Democratic Party is inclined to address only the symptoms, not their causes.
Chicago, and Cook County, and the State of Illinois, must all cooperate to make this a more business-friendly state. It wont be easy; the Chicago pols who dominate all three have dug a very deep hole. But there is no choice.
We need to end the welfare state. The wonderful progress made with national welfare reform in the mid-90s was abandoned, so our cities still have masses of people with no work history, no role models in their families; children are raised amidst generation after generation of indolence. Its hard to blame them, when its all they know; still, somewhere the cycle must end. Only if we can end the welfare state can people be set free of its clutches; only then can families and neighborhoods begin to recover.
We need to end the bureaucratic attacks on American manufacturing. The high cost of permits and regulations, the costly mandates of health insurance and ADA-compliant construction, the property taxes before you start and the income taxes as soon as you make a penny of profit all these governmental burdens combine to drive business away.
Not all these ills can be combated at the local level, but many can, and so they must.
Since right-to-work states are more desirable for businesses, let Illinois join their friendly ranks.
Since low business tax states are more desirable, reduce those taxes and fees.
We can reduce the tort law risks of being headquartered in Illinois, so that companies dont have to hire oversized law departments to protect against them.
We can reduce the expense of illegal aliens driving up the cost of education, healthcare, and the welfare state by copying Arizonas approach and enforcing federal immigration law here.
But even if Chicago cannot do everything we cannot change the national tax code, and we cannot undo the national handcuffs on our schools, on our police, on manufacturing still, Chicago must do what it can. It must stop driving worthwhile citizens and businesses out, and start welcoming them back in.
The problem, as usual, is one of cause and effect. The conservative knows that if the tax and regulatory environment is welcoming, and the streets are safe, then the helpful residents and businesses will come back, and then costly infrastructure improvements will be affordable.
But the liberal believes that they have to do the unaffordable infrastructure improvements first, foolishly thinking that pretty train stations attract employers, more than oppressive taxes and regulations repel them.
On this, as on so much, the left is sadly mistaken, to the detriment of the once-great cities of America.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade lecturer. He lived the first year of his life a stones throw from the Howard El Station, and that station remained his familys gateway to downtown Chicago during the dozen years they lived in south Evanston. But like so many others, his family fled to more hospitable neighborhoods in the 1970s, leaving the area to those reflexive Democrats who continued to look at the decay with satisfaction, and vote, year after year, for more of the same.
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Can you say pay-off to unions or political slush funds?
Why, Cenobite... Are you saying that you suspect Chicago politicians of being unethical???
Perish the thought...
Perhaps, a hundred years ago, they saved some money on the foundations... They allocated the money for portland cement, then substituted papier mache...
That looks like the good side. Maybe enough concrete has fallen off the other side to decrease the weight of the structure.
Canadian manufacturer used defective Chinese parts in $1 billion upgrade of CTA cars:
Defective wheel parts made in China for the new Series 5000 rail cars could have led to derailments, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
To their credit, it was CTA inspectors who first noticed the defective wheel housing parts. But it was after an 18-month testing period, and after the new rail cars were put into revenue service in November on the Pink Line.
What took so long? Thankfully, there were no derailments or accidents.
The CTA yanked them out of service in mid-December. Bombardier, the Canadian-based manufacturer, is now replacing the wheel housing on all 54 cars that were delivered last year with parts made in both Germany and China.
I do have a problem with the complaint about the ADA rules mentioned in the article. Although this law is so vague that it has been “pushed” to ridiculous levels, it has actually done some good. Quite a few businesses have discovered that many handicapped people have time to travel and have money to spend - if they can get to and/or in your business. I HATE shopping, so I go to 24-hour stores at night - and you would not believe how many disabled people are there at night, when the aisles are mostly empty and there’s plenty of parking and space to open doors wide, unload wheelchairs, etc.
Much of the CTA’s woes have to do with exploding pension and labor costs, as well as archaic work rules imposed by the various unions. It is so bad that Forrest Claypool and Rham Emmanuel are pleading with the unions to give some concessions.
The multi-billion dollar plan also calls for a Red Line Extension to 130th, a yellow line extension to Old Orchard, and an Orange line extension to Ford City mall.
The highest priority is the Red Line extension, as that one is eligible to receive boatloads of Federal money.
But, it should be noted that two of these extensions go into not so nice areas (Red and Orange).
From the article:
“We need to end the welfare state. The wonderful progress made with national welfare reform in the mid-90s was abandoned, so our cities still have masses of people with no work history, no role models in their families; children are raised amidst generation after generation of indolence. Its hard to blame them, when its all they know; still, somewhere the cycle must end. Only if we can end the welfare state can people be set free of its clutches; only then can families and neighborhoods begin to recover.”
There are some problems that simply don’t have solutions. Or more succinctly, solutions that aren’t feasible viewed in the greater context of accepted mores.
That said, with the “welfare state” firmly entrenched, there simply is no socially acceptable way to deal with an underculture raised by generations of indolence, without role models, work histories — except, by continuing to provide them with welfare.
Of course, we could simply cut them off. But are we prepared to deal with the consequences, those consequences being rioting adults and starving children?
That won’t happen, because gentle people (including readers of this post) will not permit it to happen.
The other solution to preventing the continuation of the underclass is to literally discourage it from promulgating itself. Of course that, too, is politically unacceptable, and again, that “unacceptability” applies to many here on FR.
The conundrum of the American underclass has become a “chicken and egg” situation. We can’t expect to effect much change on the children, so long as the parents are hopelessly dependent (the mothers) or invisible or even incarcerated (the fathers). But changing the parents has become an all-but impossible obstacle when they are in many cases unemployable and “indolent”.
A nasty predicament, indeed.
considering it's Chicago and all, my first question would be, 'who's buying up a bunch of city lots on the north side and how are they related to Rahm?'
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