How Trump's budget will make your commute worse
Source: Crain's Chicago Business
Every day, millions of Chicagoans rely on public transportation to commute to work, head to school, and attend concerts, festivals and baseball games. Whether they use the el, Metra, or a bus system, everyone benefits from the opportunity to efficiently and affordably crisscross the Chicago area and avoid the stresses of sitting in traffic and dealing with parking.
Improving our country's second-busiest public transportation system is not a flashy political issue—and it's certainly not the most interesting conversation topic—but it's deeply relevant to the lives of all Chicagoans.
CTA, Metra and Pace provide more than 600 million rides each year. When the buses and trains are running on time, we don't think much about their success, but without them, Chicago's traffic and congestion problems would be a heck of a lot worse.
Unfortunately, that's what could happen if President Trump enacts his budget. Without considering what is smart or sound, the president took a knife to the federal budget and started slashing left and right—and sent Congress a proposal to eliminate $145 billion in investments that would help public infrastructure systems expand routes, improve reliability and run safer.
Specifically, the president proposed eliminating funding for Tiger Grants, which have provided Illinois with more than $327 million since 2009 to improve our transit system, and eliminating funding for Capital Investment Grants, which just provided $100 million to help fund CTA's Red and Purple Modernization Program.
The Red and Purple Modernization project, one of our region's more exciting infrastructure projects in recent memory, would increase train service, make more CTA stations accessible and cut down on train delays.
Slashing investments in projects like this one is irresponsible and shortsighted—especially at a time when ridership in public transit is increasing and investments in our aging infrastructure are desperately overdue. Citing years of underinvestment, The American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave our nation's public transit system a D- grade. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that the Trump administration's proposed cuts will cost our economy more than $90 billion and put 800,000 jobs at risk.
The president's cuts will also have an outsized impact on people with disabilities.
For those with physical disabilities, getting around can be difficult. We can't always enter restaurants or other public spaces in our wheelchairs and have to spend a lot of time planning how to get from one place to the next.
I understand that not everyone thinks about these things because, for most of my adult life, I didn't either. But the truth is that people get older and sometimes accidents happen. Whether they realize it or not, everyone is just one bad day away from needing accessible options to help them get around town.
That's why public transportation is so critical. Thanks, in part, to the Americans with Disabilities Act, public transit systems across America have become reliable methods of transportation that enable people with disabilities to commute to work, get to class or a meeting and to participate fully in society like any other American.
Today, 99.8 percent of transit buses across the country are equipped with ramps and lifts to transport passengers with disabilities throughout their communities. I can ride every bus in the city of Chicago—and I can now use nearly 70 percent of CTA stations, something I did last month when I joined Chicagoans with disabilities riding the Blue Line to talk about how we need to continue investing in public transit to make all CTA stations fully accessible.
Unfortunately, Trump's budget cuts will undo that progress, jeopardizing the Red and Purple Modernization project that is set to increase the number of stations that are ADA-friendly.
While people with disabilities are far more likely to use public transportation than their neighbors, studies show that nearly two million Americans with disabilities never leave their homes. More than a quarter of them, 560,000 Americans, say transportation difficulties is the reason. For their sake, and for the sake of the millions of Chicagoans who rely on it every day, we need to make investing in public transportation a priority.
By: Senator Tammy Duckworth
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