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.
Member, Rider-Driver Alliance