Like many of you, I have relied for decades on taking Chicago public transit to and from work. For many years, I had no car and instead relied on the 8, 36, 80 and 135 buses, along with the red line. I count myself as a proud CTA rider. It’s because of my strong identification with our public transit system that it pains me to acknowledge the city-wide deterioration of these services. Too often, I walk onto subway cars littered with broken bottles, fast food containers, and — I kid you not — blood splatter on the wall. While no one expects pristine subway cars, the increase in garbage and unsanitary conditions is both quite noticeable and highly unacceptable. Too many times, I am reminded of our ward’s non-ADA compliant Sheridan “L” station. Standing in the shadows of the Ruth Shriman Senior Center, the Sheridan “L” has become a metaphor for how inaccessible our city feels to many of those with disabilities, families with young children, and our seniors. Too often, I find myself waiting for “ghost buses” that never arrive despite the app on my phone promising otherwise or waiting over 20 minutes to catch a bus only for two buses to finally pull up in tandem (I’m talking to you, Broadway 36). Worst of all, too many times I wake up in the morning to news stories about violence including armed robberies, assaults, stabbings, and shootings on the subway. Not surprisingly, CTA ridership is down because people are afraid that the system is unsafe.
The citizens of Chicago, including those in the 46th Ward, deserve clean, accessible, reliable, and safe public transportation. We need to invest resources into cleaning our buses and train cars more frequently, work with social service agencies to address the needs of our continuous rider population, rebuild the Sheridan “L” so that it meets ADA standards, modernize our technology to more efficiently schedule and track buses and trains so that they show up when and where they are supposed to, and increase CPD details – particularly on subway trains and platforms – to deter crime and provide citizens with an added sense of security. Working citizens and those unable to afford alternative transportation should not be forced to bear the brunt of a failing transportation system. Likewise, without thriving public transport, Chicago will suffer economically and never reach its full potential to be a world-class city. We can do better.