Dorval Carter Jr.: The CTA is focused on safety. But infrastructure improvements are also very important.

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The Chicago Transit Authority operates a world-class public transit system that is one of the largest in the country. As residents return to in-person work and essential workers continue to provide critical services, there is nothing more important than a safe and reliable public transit system. Simply put, no major urban center can function efficiently without one.

The Tribune editorial “Sound the alarm: Subways are in crisis” raised important questions about safety on public transportation and criticized the city’s use of federal infrastructure dollars to fund critical investments in transit. While the CTA is aligned on the importance of safety, the editorial failed to fully acknowledge recent investments in transit safety, the long-term positive impacts of infrastructure improvement and the relationship between the two.

Last month, the Chicago Police Department and the CTA announced new resources to address a recent uptick in crime — an issue that transit agencies are facing nationwide. These resources include additional Chicago police officers to support the public transportation section, a dedicated unit of transit officers. The department also uses its Strategic Decision Support Center to deploy officers and monitor crime trends. Similarly, the CTA is doubling the number of contracted security guards. These new resources deserve time to show their effectiveness.

New resources aside, safety on our public transit system is so much more than the number of officers. Safety, reliability and investment are intricately connected. For example, the CTA’s investment in the Red Line — the backbone of the system, carrying nearly 30% of all CTA rail riders — is critical. The Red and Purple modernization project is updating tracks, stations and structures that are 100 years old. The Red-Purple Line bypass, which removes a century-old bottleneck and allows for increased capacity and faster travel times. The editorial correctly states, “Of course, more frequent trains are vital,” but it fails to mention that this is the exact goal of the modernization project that the Tribune Editorial Board claims “(sucks) up massive amounts of taxpayers’ money.”

Additionally, the extension of the Red Line to 130th Street is a long-overdue investment in communities that are primarily minority and low-income. It addresses the largest transit gap in the city and connects communities long deprived of investment in jobs, education and opportunity. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $1 of transit investment generates $4 of economic activity. To suggest public transit should be denied capital investment during this time when the city and region are recovering is shortsighted.

No other form of transportation can move more people, more efficiently, more sustainably and more affordably than public transit. It’s why cities across the United States are investing in transit infrastructure. The editorial board stresses that these infrastructure improvements “only make sense if the system is used.” Every day, more than 800,000 people ride CTA trains and buses. This number is higher than the entire population of Denver, Seattle, Washington, Las Vegas and Boston and increases almost every month.

There is no question that the recent uptick in crime on the CTA must be addressed. Public safety is, and always will be, the CTA’s top priority. However, improving safety and infrastructure are not mutually exclusive. As we address crime with new resources, we are also focused on making transit more modern, comfortable, accessible and viable to communities across the city.

We need to take both approaches to offer the quality of transit services necessary for the city’s future.

Dorval Carter Jr. is president of the CTA.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email letters@chicagotribune.com.

via Chicago Tribune

April 21, 2022 at 02:39PM

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