A gas-tax holiday is a short-term fix that ignores long-term needs

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Over 25% of households in Chicago don’t have a car. Therefore, creating a network of options for all Chicagoans to get where they need to go is of the utmost importance.

The situation in Ukraine should remind us of the tenuous nature of Democracy and the world geopolitical balance as well as the volatility of our international oil markets. Making transit more affordable, safe, and convenient is the way to reduce our demands on foreign oil that fuels war and dictators. It is also our ticket to cleaner air and reduced congestion — Black and Latino children are disproportionately affected by asthma. 

We also need to make it safer to walk and bike, particularly in black and latino communities where roads designed for high speeds are killing more pedestrians and bicyclists than anywhere else.

There are short term, mid-range, and long term solutions that must be employed in order to truly move the needle. In January 2021, Metra launched a pilot program that improves transit services while lowering costs. Up to now, CTA has refused to participate in this program. This pilot program can be even more impactful if CTA were a full partner, by allowing transfers to and from Metra to CTA for free or reduced costs and better-syncing bus schedules with Metra. This week, I will be joined by a number of my colleagues in filing a resolution in the Illinois House of Representatives asking CTA to reconsider its partnership in this pilot and to bring better services to forgotten corners of the city.

We will also urge CTA to reduce fares along key corridors during these peak inflationary and high gas prices.  We should build on what was recently done by the Chicago-born mayor of Boston and identify the top ten highest ridership routes during the pandemic, increase the number of buses, and reduce the fares by making them free or cutting the fare in half.  We should enhance this pilot program to grow ridership by installing pop-up bus priority lanes and retime stop lights so these buses carrying Chicagoans who are building back our city can literally get the green light, making bus service even more attractive and welcoming more riders to the system; addressing both racial equity and improvement to our city’s economy.

Long-term, we need to accelerate the adoption and deployment of electric buses. CTA and Pace must plan now for the conversion of their fleets to electric together, so we don’t waste money buying two separate systems to charge and maintain these new buses.  We can make Chicago the cleanest transit system in the country. 

If these ridiculous gas prices have taught us anything, it is that gasoline and car dependency are a problem we need to solve and we’ll continue to belt toxic pollutants into our air or spill more heavy metals into our backyard Lake Michigan if we continue to celebrate burning gas in cars. We took a gigantic step in Springfield last year as we passed the nation’s most comprehensive clean energy legislation– the climate change crises and our city’s future depend on a cleaner, safer, affordable, and independent transportation future, let’s not miss this moment.

Lastly, Game of Thrones fans may be familiar with the phrase “chaos is a ladder,” meaning that a state of disorder can often lead to a benefit to someone. There is evidence that some gas stations around the city are using the organic spike in prices to inch prices up a little higher for more profit. At some gas stations, prices are way above the current city average. I have sent a letter to the Attorney General asking him to continue his work to combat price gouging to keep consumers in the state safe from unscrupulous actors and unfair pricing. 

Today’s high gas prices — the result of Vladimir Putin’s inhumane war in Ukraine — should be a moment for us to reflect on how we as a city can make alternatives to driving a priority. Reducing our reliance on oil and directly addressing some of the wrongs of the past while creating a city that seamlessly and safely moves people and goods in ways that make us the envy of the world. 

Kam Buckner is a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives from the 26th District and chair of the House Legislative Black Caucus.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

March 29, 2022 at 02:26PM

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