State Transit Plan Funded By Increase In Gas Tax
But ironically, they want drivers to pay for these improvements through a mild increase in higher state gas taxes.
Riders for Better Transit, a group under the umbrella of the Active Transportation Alliance, held a press conference in support of Senate Bill 3236, which they call the Transit Fast Forward bill which was recently introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.
Riders for Better Transit believe there’s inadequate funding for mass transit locally and with increasing gas prices, people are looking for transportation alternatives.
“Strong transit service helps reduce congestion, improve commute times, save households money and enhance the region’s quality-of-life, making transit one of the wisest transportation investments available,” reads the group’s press release.
“Metra actually carries 50 percent of the commuters coming into the downtown area during peak hours,” says Metra’s Samuel Smith. “Public transit is what keeps our region’s economy moving, but we need to invest in keeping it strong.”
Smith claims that without Metra, another 29 lanes of expressway would be needed to handle the increased number of motorists on the road. While the group says the CTA keeps 400,000 vehicles off the road each day based on the number of commuters who use city buses and trains.
The group believes the transit bill would generate an estimated $11.6 million next year and they project it would bring in a total of $168 million over the next five years by indexing the state gas tax to the rate of inflation. The Illinois State motor fuel tax is currently 19 cents a gallon and has not changed since 1990. Riders for Better Transit believe this indexed increase would nudge up the cost of gas by 2/5ths of a cent per gallon or an additional $3 to $4 per year for an average family.
“Transit has been left out in the cold,” says Active Transportation’s Lee Crandell pointing out transit riders are paying higher fees as services have been cut. “When’s the last time you saw IDOT broach the subject of shutting down a major roadway due to a lack of funding?”
But can the Transit Fast Forward bill make it through the Illinois General Assembly to become law?
“It will be a difficult battle to get it through,” admitted Crandell “There’s a recognition we need to address this issue and we recognize it’s not an easy conversation.”