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Residents back tax hike for transit

Local residents were outnumbered by government officials at a hearing on the metro area’s mass transit budget crisis at Evanston’s Civic Center Thursday night.

But it appeared that all of the 30 people in the room wanted the state legislature to act to keep the proposed cuts in rail and bus service from happening.

Betty Jean Wise of 609 Oakton St. said the planned cuts would leave the southwest portion of Evanston without any service.

"People would be marooned in their houses, not able to walk the 10 or 12 blocks to grab a Pace bus," Ms. Wise said.

She added that the cuts would severely affect residents who work second and third shift jobs, and predicted that it would force many downtown Evanston businesses to close early because workers would have no way to get home.

Alex Sproul of 646 Judson Ave., with the group Evanston’s Transportation Future, said CTA bus routes in Evanston do tend to have low ridership, but that the people who do use the buses are very dependent on them.

"It would be irresponsible for us as a community to ask for a lot of money from the legislature without stepping up to the plate and saying we’re willing to pay for it," Mr. Sproul said.

He praised a plan by Rep. Julie Hamos of Evanston to raise the sales tax in the metro area a quarter percent to fund transit.

"Nobody likes a sales tax, it militates against the poor, but it is the best option we have out there," he added.

Debra Shore of 9232 Avers Ave. in Skokie who recently was elected to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board said that instead of eliminating service on the Skokie Swift the CTA should be looking at ways to increase ridership.

She said the line serves about 2,000 people on weekdays, a total of 40,000 a month. "It has the capacity to serve far more."

She said that even though her agency provides its board members with a free car and free parking space downtown, she uses the Skokie Swift and the Red line to get to work. "Our agency has it exactly wrong," she said, "it provided disincentives to take public transit."

She said Evanston has done the right thing environmentally by creating more dense urban housing, but that people want to be able to get around and the region must have the transit infrastructure to support that.

As did many other speakers, she said she supports the sales tax increase proposal.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said she wanted to speak up on behalf of Northwestern University students who are off on summer vacation.

During the school year, she said, they depend heavily on the CTA Purple Line to get to and from Chicago, and it’s an important part of their educational experience to have that access to the city.

She added that a large number of workers at Evanston Hospital, which is located in her ward, use the ‘L’ to get to work, and that the cuts would have a direct impact on the provision of health care services.

City Manager Julia Carroll said a transcript of testimony from the hearing would be forwarded to legislative leaders.

 

 

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