With gas prices still higher than in recent memory, Illinois lawmakers — and local celebrities — are proffering shortsighted solutions to the pain in Chicagoans wallets. While the prospect of offering gas rebate money or free gas to drivers seems like an appropriate solution, now’s the time for government officials to start investing in public transit.
It’s time for the CTA to be accessible for all.
Chicago is among one of the luckiest cities to have some semblance of reliable public transportation. But it’s undeniable that parts of the city, especially those in the South and Southwest sides, are designed around cars and a lack of investment in public transit leaves those residents chained to cars and the rising gas prices.
While millionaires opening their wallets to provide free gas to people hurting from the increased prices is a good thing, it’s a band-aid solution for a much larger problem.
Rather than using private or public money to fill the gas tanks of drivers, now’s the time for the massive investment in one of our greatest public assets: transportation.
Paying for gas and parking are deterrents enough for driving to work — but when faced with 30-minute headways, ghost buses and trains and a lack of service, it’s no wonder people are biting the bullet at the pump.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Transit is a public service — but how public can it be with the barrier of a fare? How public can it be where entire parts of the city have little to no access?
Even children aren’t safe from this. Chicago Public School students are given reduced fare, but only on trips to school. Once a student turns 12-years-old, a trip to the library would impose the same cost as out-of-towners heading to drink at Wrigleyville bars for a Cubs’ game.
Arguments against the efficacy of public transport are shoddy at best and downright lies at worst. The city has no excuses for what happens when it fails to properly support the buses and trains it expects its citizens to rely on.
Several cities in Europe already operate no-fare public transportation systems, with comprehensive networks ensuring easy and fast access to all parts of the city at no cost. When people argue against such a system here in Chicago — or other parts of the U.S. — a real life counter argument exists a continent away and even closer.
Pittsburgh has fare-free zones to promote the use of its public transit system — and in light of service disruptions similar to that of Chicago’s — the city has stopped collecting money from transit users for the time being.
It’s time for Chicago to enter the 21st century when it comes to getting its people from spot to spot through the use of public assets. The CTA should be free for all and the global success of programs like this show there’s truly no excuse for its current state.