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48th Ward in search of alternatives to the CTA

Submitted on Fri, 07/20/2007 – 15:52.
Story by Dan Selecman
After nearly two months of an overtime legislative session in Springfield, many state budget issues remain unresolved.

Among the many funding issues still up in the air is a request from the CTA for an additional $110 million, on tops of its $1 billion budget.

If the CTA doesn’t get its bailout from the state in coming weeks, CTA President Ron Huberman says fares will increase Sept. 1.

That could be especially painful for the 30 percent of the city’s nearly 3 million residents who are “transit captives,” said Tom Samuels, a staff member for Ald. Mary Ann Smith (48th). Transit captives don’t own their own vehicles, making them dependent on public transportation.

Uptown resident John Lester is a transit captive. He uses the CTA every day, whether it’s for commuting to work downtown or just to the beach. Even if the fare increases, from $2 to as much as $3.25 during peak hours, he says it wouldn’t make sense for him to buy a car.

“Insurance, gas, parking. That’s all on top of actually paying for the car,” Lester said.

Though statistics show Lester’s position is not uncommon in Chicago, and even more typical in Uptown, just five people attended a meeting last month to discuss possible alternatives to the CTA.

The June 5th meeting, held at the Margate Fieldhouse, was led by Samuels, who outlined several options to residents who rely on mass transit to get around the city.

Samuels endorsed the I-GO car-sharing program, which started in 2002. I-GO is a non-profit service that maintains a fleet of low-emission vehicles that can be reserved by members who pay an hourly rate, which covers gas and insurance costs.

Another car-sharing service operating in the 48th Ward is Zipcar, which offers cars by the hour or the day. Both services provide solutions for easier shopping and errand running rather than the morning commute.

A representative from Pace, Tara P. O’Malley, talked about one possible alternative for commuters: van sharing.

“Pace’s goal is to provide options, especially with the high number of jobs moving into the suburbs,” O’Malley said.

The van pool program, in essence, leases a van from the government to a minimum of four and maximum of 13 people. Currently the program has more than 600 vans in operation, but none going to or from Uptown.

Pace’s web site offers a searchable index of van pools for those who don’t want to start their own. The program costs any where from $60 to $144 per month, depending on the number of people in the pool and how far they are driving. Gas, maintenance and car washes for the van are all paid for by Pace.

But the van pool isn’t a perfect fit for everyone.

“Although economically, it sounds good to me, because of the hours I work, it isn’t entirely realistic,” said Lester. Working in the service industry Lester doesn’t work the same hours or days from week to week.

At the June 5th meeting, Samuels said he plans to talk about the Pace van pool program to the block clubs throughout the 48th Ward in coming weeks and months. So far, though, he has had no success in getting people to sign up.

“This is something that’s going to take a while for people to get interested in, or to decided they’re not [interested],” said Samuels in a recent interview.

North Side Public Transportation
48th ward alderman mary ann smith cta edgewater i-go pace uptown zipcar

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