Chicago transit disparity

The news: In February, the Chicago Transit Authority eliminated nine express bus routes and reduced service on seven rail lines in an effort to cope with its budget shortfall.

Behind the news: Although the CTA served 80.7 percent of the Regional Transportation Authority riders in 2008, it is set to receive 44 percent of the 2010 operating budget. Metra, on the other hand, had 13.5 percent of the RTA ridership in 2008 but is set to receive 27. 3 percent of the budget.

The disparity, in part, was the basis for a muchpublicized lawsuit filed in January against the RTA and the Illinois Department of Transportation by two CTA riders alleging racial bias in the distribution of funds. The funding decisions have had a disproportionately negative effect on minority riders who rely heavily on the CTA, which claims to have a ridership that’s 60 percent black and Latino. “The funding disparities –¦ irreparably injure African Americans and Hispanics, by limiting their mass transit access,” the lawsuit said.

Maria Choca Urban, director for transportation and community development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, said the larger issue isn’t necessarily about shifting resources from Metra to the CTA. For a proper solution, the overall funding level for transportation needs a significant boost.

Choca Urban added that, in the end, raising taxes might prove inevitable. “The motor fuel tax, which is based on how much fuel you consume, hasn’t been raised in Illinois in decades,” she said.

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