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Rahm: Chicago public transit needs ongoing federal support

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote an editorial highlighting the CTA’s modernization for the New York Times

Flickr Creative Commons/David Harmantas

For at the least the last few years, the CTA has been undergoing major updates to its aging rail system and improvements to its many ‘L’ stations. Major investments are being made on the Red, Blue, and Green lines, and several new stations, such as the the McCormick Place station and the Washington and Wabash station, have either come online in recent years or are currently under construction. In an editorial published by the New York Times today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel highlighted the investment being made in public transit in Chicago, and also suggested that the Windy City should be viewed as a role model for how major cities can and should keep up with critical infrastructure.

In the piece, Mayor Emanuel highlighted the ongoing troubles New York’s MTA has been witnessing. Beyond mild frustrations such as delays and the cleanliness of stations, MTA riders have had to endure through more egregious events in recent months. Just this year, the decaying system has been been plagued by power outages, flooding, and even falling pieces of station ceilings. Just last week, New York’s rapid transit system witnessed a derailment in Harlem which in turn led to major service disruptions across the vast subway system.

While Mayor Emanuel compares and contrasts the success of Chicago’s ‘L’ and New York’s MTA, the mayor also adds that there is no one-size-fits-all model for public transit. However, Emanuel points to the CTA’s management structure (which falls under city jurisdiction) and the city’s prioritization of improving existing infrastructure versus expanding as major reasons for the CTA’s success. According to Mayor Emanuel, 85 percent of passengers surveyed in a recent poll stated that they were satisfied with the service of Chicago’s CTA. The mayor added that by 2019, “40 stations will be reconstructed or brand new, and half of our tracks will be new.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s comparison of Chicago and New York’s rail transit systems, while prudent, is certainly like comparing apples and oranges. Chicago’s ‘L’ saw over 238 million rides last year, but New York’s MTA tops this number just within a few months. The MTA reported that it witnessed over 1.756 billion subway trips in 2016—more than seven times the annual ridership levels that Chicago’s rail system sees. In addition, the entire MTA rail system runs 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

However, Mayor Emanuel ultimately points to the need for continued federal support to ensure that the public transit systems in major cities improving. “It’s a lesson for us all: The only way to keep a city moving is to invest in its future,” Mayor Emanuel wrote in the New York Times. However, Rahm also calls out President Donald Trump’s fixation with Chicago’s violence and asks that the president look at the Second City as a leader in infrastructure investment instead of constantly using the city as a punching bag on Twitter.

“Rather than tweeting about violence in Chicago, President Trump should be looking to Chicago as a model for the infrastructure investments and economic growth he wants to replicate across the country.”