Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Chicago could be a toddlin’ town again

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The Economist provides a useful summary of the disaster of transit in Chicago. I put a link to it here since we need every so often to know that however bad our system might be there is always someone who is worse off than you. The Economist calls it “ineptitude” but all the players will think they are being rational. That’s the problem with democracy. It requires the elected representatives to think more broadly than their own local interest, and the short term rewards of being selfish. That is what is meant by “responsible” government. Not just thinking about how to I get re-elected, but what is best for all of us in the longer term, even if I have to take some flack from people who have less public spirit.

I do not think that Chicago is going to decide that the way to solve this problem is to have the state governor appoint the whole of the CTA board – and dictate to them how to pay for the system by making state funding conditional upon following his prescriptions for fares and taxes. I suspect that eventually a deal will be done – and I must admit that sometimes when you forecast a “doomsday” it actually has to happen for people to take it seriously. Unfortunately American politicians have been playing variations on brinkmanship for many years and it has become part of the culture. And in other cities in the US this kind of crisis has seen private sector solutions – often extra-legal ones – pop up quite quickly, as one person’s crisis is another’s opportunity. But I am glad we can watch this from a distance as I suspect this “learning opportunity” will be very uncomfortable for some for a while yet.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 4, 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in transit

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