Friday, January 12, 2007

CTA doing a slow crash and burn

The latest news from the CTA about delays starting this spring couldn't come at a worse time for the system.

This spring, one of the four tracks that serve the Red, Brown and Purple lines will be closed while the Belmont station is being renovated and upgraded. Of course, I can't fault the need for the upgrade and renovation, but this comes after riders have spent the last year complaining about how bad service has gotten.

In my personal experience, I cannot depend on the CTA to get me into the loop in a timely fashion anymore. Dependability has dropped to zero as I rode the Red Line several times last year from Belmont into the Loop, and from Clybourn into the loop. Just a couple years ago I could rely on the train to get me down to State Street or to a downtown closing faster than traffic would allow about 75% of the time.

In the second half of 2006, it became a certainty that the train I was riding would experience slowdowns and stops that could add over 30 minutes to my trip.

If the system cannot guarantee getting me to my destination in a reasonable - and repeatably dependable - time frame, then it becomes irrelevant and useless. It has become the same for most of my neighbors, too. When we all moved into our Lakeview development in 2001, just under 50% of my neighbors took the Brown Line into the Loop. Now I only know TWO neighbors riding the CTA. The other folks that used to ride are now all driving, paying for parking and adding to congestion every day.

As a Realtor, this is killing me. Our transportation system is one of the largest economic engines that helped grow Chicago into the city it is today. I'd say it's one of the top three. Every single person that comes to Chicago asks about transportation. 20 years ago, College courses on urban development ranked the CTA as one of the best urban mass transit systems in the nation. I'm afraid to know what they think of the system today.

This is so shortsighted. The economic engine that makes Chicago vibrant would be severely crippled without the CTA. To let it continue to deteriorate is a grave mistake.