The Mayor of Chicago has considerable influence over the Chicago Transit Authority. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel let Chicagoans know on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, partially how he intends to wield that influence. This post is a look into the recent announcements regarding transit in Chicago.
1. Forrest Claypool “appointed” as CTA president*
During the press conference, Rahm had some choice words and expended a little of his still-growing political capital:
He shares my belief that (the CTA) is our most critical piece of infrastructure. Forrest has the experience to capitalize on the CTAâ€™s strengths and the creative mind to guide its future.
He didn’t mention our roads, highways, or airports. While Mayor Daley may have shirked finding the best funding solutions for the Chicago Transit Authority, saying it’s the state legislature’s responsibility, Rahm and his choice for president staking a bigger role in leading the CTA.Â Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2011
2. Gabe Klein at CDOT
The Chicago Department of Transportation supports the CTA in many respects. It owns the downtown subways and subway stations. It can renovate or build stations for the CTA. For example, CDOT is currently renovating the Grand/State Red Line station and building the completely new Morgan/Lake Green/Pink Line station. Gabe is a very transit-friendly DOT commissioner. In Washington, D.C., he helped launch a streetcar project to supplement the city’s bus and subway networks.
Robert Thomson, or “Dr. Gridlock” from the Washington Post, defended Klein from a letter writer with a windshield perspective on traveling within the city:
Klein was trying to restore an old balance that would allow everyone to move around more easily. “People think about having to move X number of cars,” he said. “We’ve tried to think about how we’re moving people. . . . We want to provide people with attractive choices.” Washington Post, December 11, 2010 (just days after Gabe announced his resignation)
3. Ray LaHood and the Red Line Extension
Rahm says he’s gung ho about extending the Red Line from 95th to 130th, a project that will cost over $1.2 billion. The plans are waiting for funding. On his campaign website, Rahm expressed his interest in the project: “Rahm will make it a major priority of his administration” and mentioning how he would leverage every available funding opportunity to get it built.
During his visit on Thursday to Chicago, reporters asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding this project. As I expected, he offered no clear answer:
LaHood made no commitment to fulfill Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s stated plan to line up federal funding in his first year in office to extend the south branch of the CTA Red Line from its current terminus at 95th Street another 5.5 miles to 130th Street. [LaHood said he]Â would invite incoming CTA President Forrest Claypool and Gabe Klein, whom Emanuel selected to head the Chicago Department of Transportation, to Washington to lay out their project priorities and present cost estimates for the work. Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2011
Currently, the CTA has not applied for funding for this project so Ray couldn’t provide any different answer.
*It should be noted that the Transit Act requires the board to choose the president, not the Mayor of Chicago. FromÂ (70 ILCS 3605/27) (from Ch. 111 2/3, par. 327): “The Board may appoint an Executive Director [president]Â who shall be a person of recognized ability and experience in the operation of transportation systems to hold office during the pleasure of the Board. The Executive Director shall have management of the properties and business of the Authority and the employees thereof, subject to the general control of the Board…”