Want more Chicago area mass transit? Have to find more tax dollars

More mass transit may be good for the Chicago region but it will cost taxpayers:

A coalition of transportation advocates supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has recommended raising new tax money in Cook County to help pay for billions of dollars of mass transit improvements…

In a meeting with the Tribune’s editorial board, coalition leaders said that the board could potentially raise property, sales, or gasoline taxes for the local share. The money would help pay for such big-ticket projects in Chicago and Cook County as the long-sought extension of the CTA’s Red Line to the far South Side.

The Red Line extension and other billion-dollar projects like suburb-to-suburb Metra STAR Line have languished in recent years because federal funding for major transit endeavors has all but disappeared…

The coalition’s campaign comes on the heels of a Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force report released Monday which concluded that current funding levels are insufficient to maintain current service, much less expand it.

I suspect it will be difficult to raise such funds when there are plenty of other needs for money in Chicago and Illinois. At the same time, I have little doubt that there are a number of mass transit projects that would be helpful in the Chicago area. Such projects could help limit road traffic, provide needed transportation options to places where driving cars (a relatively expensive task) is not as viable, and even potentially spur development around new mass transit options. But, the short-term cost is quite high.

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