Wednesday, October 31, 2007

To the Tribune and Sun-Times

Riders and drivers from Chicago's Rider-Driver Alliance demonstrated their frustration at Monday's congressional hearing on mass transit and then marched through downtown chanting slogans that included “No bus, no Olympics!” and “Save paratransit!”

Apparently, our main point was lost in the noise: the Tribune mistakenly assumed we were singing the same simplistic refrain that transit officials have trained the weary public to sing. One might excuse the broadcast media for its tunnel vision. But could it be that our message was more nuanced than even the newspapers have the ability to interpret?

We are the many riders and transit workers who say we deserve far better treatment than what transit authorities are dishing out. And while the failure of transit service is critical, its failure is merely a symptom of a sad cancer that is killing transit.

When our elected officials pack the boards and management of these agencies with aristocratic friends and allies, the resultant rubber stamp compares to that of the City Council in its deleterious public impact. When the mayor hides real resources from the people, spending our money on tangential amenities big and small -- all the while pleading pauper -- it infuriates us. When political footballs rain down on the public, there is no safe place for us to hide. We blame the mayor and the governor for creating the transit cancer, and elected officials for repeatedly failing to challenge them on it until it is too late. These are not leaders.

Over months now, we have repeatedly been sent to the back of the discussion while suit-and-tie bureaucrats -- appointed by our so-called leaders -- have gotten to do all of the talking. But their ideas are not the people's ideas. By the time it is the public's turn to speak, the reporters and cameras have all packed up and gone home.

But we are not going home. Whether doomsday ends Nov. 4 or not means very little to our plans. We will still continue to organize riders and drivers together to correct these ills. We will not be happy until the books are fully opened to us -- and until we can have a permanent place at the table as the true voice of the people who use and are employed by the public transit system.

Peter Zelchenko
Member, Rider-Driver Alliance

Monday, October 29, 2007

It was a bad news day. "Jr." and various tax activists did a protest at the river; we did our action; the congressional transit and Olympics hearing was held; Madigan had his own conference about casinos.

That's our own Pat Baxter complaining to U.S. Cong. Bobby Rush that we need things fixed now, not for the Olympics. "No bus, no Olympics!" was one of the chants we shouted going from our rally at Federal Plaza to Daley Plaza.

View the Tribune CLTV video

We did end up making a lot of noise. We disrupted the congressional hearing for about 15 minutes, then we had a well-attended rally and press conference; whereas I was very concerned that the media wouldn't even notice, we had made such a stink in the Federal Building that they sent the cameras down after us for a while. We marched to Daley Plaza and I caught word of the Madigan conference and I think they tried to go there and attend to that.

Tribune: Transit neglect is linked to Chicago's Olympic hopes
Sun-Times: Is CTA running on fumes?

We feel that HB572 may be necessary. However, we are far more interested in seeing how the service bureaus can stop wasting the money they already have. The money is available in this city. The city's annual tax revenues have more than doubled in the last 18 years. But Mayor Daley keeps siphoning things off on TIFs, squandering money on things like Millennium Park and Block 37 for his "legacy," protecting massive lucrative clout deals, and so on.

As just one among numerous examples of this kind of misappropriation, the CTA board recently passed $30 million right under our noses for more CAD/AVL technology that is absolutely unnecessary and does nothing to solve problems like bus bunching. Yet when they cut, they cut where it hurts us most. Little to no middle management, systems, administration are cut. It's always bus and train service, drivers, staff health benefits.

Most importantly, we have not had a voice at the table. After all of the editing of the busy news today, what the public mostly saw was just a bunch of suits and ties around tables; the media did not really listen to what real riders and drivers need. Even Bobby Rush was telling us that he'd be glad to talk to us "after everything else is over." I read that as "when the important stuff is dealt with." Things we pawns couldn't possibly comprehend.

We will still be discontented after Nov. 4, no matter what happens.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In the Illinois Auditor General's report:

"Farebox Recovery Ratio. The Service Boards' operating budget looks nearly the same in 2005 as it did in 1985, when measured in 2005 dollars. Combined expenses increased from $1.76 billion in 1985 to $1.88 billion in 2005. ..."

"Sales taxes provided to the RTA have increased slowly from $625 million in 1985 (measured in 2005 dollars) to $700 million in 2005."

What does it mean, "measured in 2005 dollars"? Doesn't that mean that the 1985 dollars are not really the 1985 dollars, but are adjusted for inflation? They say it has risen "slightly." But if the numbers have risen over the years despite that adjustment, wouldn't that mean the system is costing considerably more (even though they are taking on fewer riders) than it did 22 years ago? If CTA, Pace, and Metra were operating as efficiently as they were 22 years ago, wouldn't it say something like "$625 million in combined expenses in 1985 (in 2005 dollars), and $625 in 2005"? That would indicate that the system is operating as efficiently today as it was in 1985. But what it seems to show is that it is actually far less efficient.

Can someone correct me on this if I'm wrong?

RDA demonstration Oct. 29!

Come to the Rider-Driver Alliance demonstration at Daley Plaza. For more information, please go to:

The Point's RDA Olympics campaign

Friday, October 19, 2007

Movie showing!

UIC Hull House has been kind enough to sponsor our next movie showing. This is bound to be a big one:


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Tribune: Mass-transit crisis could complicate city's Olympic prospects

Here we have yet another shoe in the works, alongside the Republicans' road bill and the casino bill. All kinds of tools that the "powers that be" throw out as bargaining chips.

Translation from bureaucrat-speak: We definitely need more money for transit. We need lots of it to come from the U.S. government, more from the wealthy than from the poor; some to come from taxpayers of Illinois, more from the wealthy than from the poor; and, much more than we do now, we need it to come from the city's sources, as we all know that city money is currently spent on foolish playthings for the mayor and his aldermen. The Olympics may be a good thing here, but only if the money it brings helps restore our most precious resource, transit. If there is a way to use the Olympics to force federal and state (and city?) money to be spent on our transit system, then so be it.

What would we want from this? I would say that it may be a good thing, because it may force more federal dollars into the system as well as force the legislature to pass the bill. The pro-SB572 people may even use this as a lever to evict the casino and road arguments from the discussion, forcing Springfield to sign SB572 as a contingency to federal help for the Olympics. My feeling is that we still need to push SB572 to be far more progressive. Currently, the media is propping up the pro-business (Lawrence Msall et al.) argument that progressive proposals, such as parking-lot taxes, are no good. Any other thoughts?