To stay safe, Chicago area public transit needs investment

SHARE To stay safe, Chicago area public transit needs investment

Riders board a Metra BNSF train in Naperville. | Robert Herguth / Sun-Times

Follow @csteditorialsI write about “Metra’s wild glitch” (March 13), in which a Metra train operated by the BNSF pulling out of a station had a door pop open and then automatically close three seconds later. Metra’s top priority is always safety, and the door’s electrical circuit was repaired immediately. The cause is extremely rare.

Readers should know the American Society of Civil Engineers last week rated public transit a D-minus, the lowest of all infrastructure categories. It’s amazing that the CTA, Metra and Pace perform as well as they do in an environment that doesn’t provide our transit system roads or bridges the funding they desperately need.

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Our fleet is safe, an issue I take personally since I am a daily Metra and CTA commuter myself. Chicago mass transit has the fewest mechanical breakdowns among its peers per mile even with Chicago’s weather, aging equipment and financial challenges. Metra’s on-time performance last year was 96 percent, above its 95 percent goal, though it operates at the mercy of seven complex private railroads and Amtrak.

We at the Regional Transportation Authority estimate that Chicagoland mass transit requires $37 billion over the next 10 years to achieve a “state of good repair” for our existing network. Much like your personal vehicles, our aging fleet is more expensive to maintain as cars and locomotives get older. More than 30 percent of our assets are beyond their useful life, including rolling stock, stations and guideways. The Metra car in the Sun-Times story was delivered in 1961. Metra rebuilds and repairs cars continually, but BNSF riders still travel on some cars delivered during the Eisenhower administration.

The RTA has set an annual funding target of between $2 billion to $3 billion per year to address the backlog, maintain the system and undertake limited modernization enhancement and expansion. Unfortunately, the RTA has no state construction money due to Springfield inaction. Illinois has not had an infrastructure spending plan since 2009, leaving us with no funds to match President Donald Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure vision.

Nationally, in the fall elections, other cities and states passed more than 70 percent of referendums increasing mass transit outlays. Those voters know where transit goes, the economy grows!

Kirk W. Dillard, chair,

Regional Transportation Authority

Doesn’t bode well

In his Saturday column, Gene Lyons asks, “Who will save us from Trump?” The answer is, no one. He is protected by an impenetrable wall of hard-core, fanatical believers whose resentment, anger and hatred gush from a deep reservoir that was replenished each year Barack Obama was president.

I’m dismayed and saddened that persons I’ve known for years, and whom I believed knew better, refuse to see Trump’s unfitness to lead this nation. They are gleeful that long-time adversaries are at last getting their comeuppance, and they furiously ridicule and savagely attack anyone who speaks against their hero. This does not bode well for America as a democracy, and the only benefit of being elderly is not being alive to witness the total collapse of a cherished nation.

Hosea L. Martin, Bronzeville

Familiar argument

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Brent Ramsey wrote in an opinion piece in the Sun-Times that U.S. military spending must rise because “military experts” tell us our weapons are depleted and “the entire force is struggling to keep pace with ever-expanding tasks.” To those familiar with military force structure planning this will be a familiar argument, as is the obvious question it evokes: instead of just throwing money at the problem, why not work instead on minimizing those “ever-expanding tasks” through astute diplomacy, alliance building and avoidance of unwinnable military involvements?

He also argues that we must spend more because other nations devote a larger share of gross national product to defense. Russia, for instance spends 4.5 percent to our 3.5 percent. This argument also used to be heard in the halls of the Pentagon, but less now that more people have taken statistics 101 and learned that a small percentage of a large number can be a lot bigger that a larger percentage of a small number. In that connection, the U.S. economy, by far the largest in the world, is 18 times bigger than Russia’s.

A fact-based case might be made for modest increases in the defense budget, but this isn’t it.

Thomas W. Evans, Mundelein

Out of touch congressman

I hope and pray the people who voted for U.S. Rep John Shimkus, R-Ill, see him for what he is: a very small man, a misogynist and totally out of touch. A true Republicon — malicious in his thinking. I hope he is voted out. We don’t need regressive-thinking individuals in office.

Ann Gutierrez, Tinley Park

Columnist’s fake news

Imagine my surprise and frustration when I read the piece by Linda Chavez titled, “Honest health care bill says there’s no free lunch” in Monday’s paper.

She gets to the fake news right off the bat with this whopper: ” … the fact that despite Obamacare’s many flaws, Americans now feel entitled to guaranteed health insurance but don’t necessarily want to pay for it.” There is simply no factual back-up to that claim, which literally makes it fake.

Americans have said over and over in opinion poll after opinion poll that they want one thing and that is the same thing every other Western country has: robust, affordable health insurance that covers everyone and bankrupts no one.

Don Anderson, Oak Park

Clean harbor

Years ago, when my husband and I were in Greece, the ships were mandate by law to empty their bilges through suction into waiting trucks. The water in the harbor was unbelievably clean.

You could even see the healthy fish swimming in the shallow water. Maybe something like that could be done in our Great Lakes.

Rosemary Denniston, Winnetka

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