CTA goals prove to be off track

By Samuel Charles

The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority recently announced plans to renovate and cleanse several rail stations with $25 million that was saved from

budget cuts.

Everyone who’s ever ridden the Red or Blue lines knows many stations are in desperate need of cleaning. But, more importantly, many neighborhoods are without any CTA el station to begin with.

The CTA and city should be allocating the money toward new stations instead of improving the stations that are already in use. Again, there are dozens of stations in dire need of cleaning—like any station north of the Sheridan stop on the Red Line. But there are thousands of people who are forced to rely on the glacially paced CTA bus system instead of the trains.

The money in question wouldn’t be enough to erect a completely new station, but it could serve as a sign of good faith to many Chicagoans if, at the very least, plans for a new station were announced.

For years there have been talks of extending the Red Line farther south, possibly to 130th Street, and the Orange Line farther south as well, to Ford City Shopping Center at 76th Street and Cicero Avenue.

There are five Brown Line stations within the mile and a half stretch between Armitage and Belmont avenues. That means one could walk 12 blocks through Lincoln Park and Lake View and never be more than two blocks away from a CTA station.

Unfortunately, the planning and execution of the Brown Line was done more than a century ago, so it’d be unfair to blame present incompetence for the sins of the past.

But still, even with the high population of the Lake View and Lincoln Park communities, that number of stations is wholly unnecessary. What about the vastly underserved communities? Little Village, West Englewood, and the entire Southeast Side are without manageable access to rail service. By not showing those and other underserved neighborhoods the same kind of attention that more well-to-do neighborhoods get, the city has made clear what the geographical totem pole looks like, and, more importantly, who’s on the top and who’s on the bottom.

If Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the rapid transit service in the city truly value all citizens as equals, then more of a concrete commitment should be made—or at the very least, expressed—to the least served city inhabitants.

And as for those who will see their train station of choice cleaned in the coming weeks and months, they should be thankful that they even have a station to complain about because I’m sure everyone would rather have a dumpy and dirty el stop than not one at all.

Unfortunately, both processes—expansion and cleaning—are beyond necessary, and neither are cheap to perform. Cuts in the CTA budget need to be made in order to bring these ideas to fruition.

The CTA is rife with urgent problems that need swift attention, but it appears the ineptitude in the front office is more concerned with keeping up appearances. But at least they are saving face.