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Proviso Probe

Thursday, January 05, 2006

TRANS, Blue Line service changes? CATS

The CTA is considering changes to the Blue Line that would diminish service on the Cermak branch and increase service on the Forest Park branch. See Forest Park Review (Seth Stern).

I’d like to revisit a column I wrote for the August 18, 2004 Forest Park Review (not available online). I explained a little about the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS). CATS coordinates regional transportation issues. It includes a variety of stakeholders, but it excludes the regular Joes, aka the public, that use the transportation system.

I suggested we should elect the board that oversees CATS or its successor organization.
Elections, media, policy and the public interact with each other. The media needs for a story to be interesting—at least interesting enough to sell the advertising packaged around it. Media decision makers have largely concluded that nuts-and-bolts discussions of public policy don’t sell advertising. So they cover stuff that does sell advertising. The most extreme example is TV anchors hawking crime stories as news while telling nothing about crimes as a policy issue.

What if the Chicago area had contested elections for a transportation board? Candidates would discuss improving public transportation, airport policies, gasoline taxes and a whole bunch of issues that matter. This would provide a hook for the media to provide coverage. Media coverage would increase public awareness and public involvement. Maybe contested elections would even result a new idea and better transportation policies.

Under the current system, politicians have us voting on what’s important to them. We, the voters, elect people to control jobs (patronage) and contracts. Why should the public care about who is Recorder of Deeds, Clerk of the Circuit Court or on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District? Wouldn’t you rather have a chance to vote on issues that directly affect Forest Park, such as widening the Eisenhower, the gas tax, how to expand Chicago’s air transportation capacity, the hours of service on the Blue and Green Lines and your bus fare?

Getting back the current issue, the CTA will be taking citizen input.

January 12, 6-8 PM, Forest Park Community Center, 7640 Jackson
January 10, 6-8 PM, UIC Student Center, 828 S. Wolcott
January 11, 6-8 PM, 10th District Police Station, 3315 W. Ogden, Chicago

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