CTA, Metra are Unworthy 'Social Engineering,' GOP Says
Did you realize that, when you took Metra, Pace or the Chicago Transit Authority to work or school today, you were engaged in "social engineering?"
Well, you were, according to a section of the 2016 Republican Platform that was adopted this week and on which Donald Trump and Mike Pence will now run. And it's time for such "government transit" to get its hands off of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, the GOP says.
Under current law, proceeds from the federal 18.4 cents a gallon tax on gasoline are split between roads and transit, with the latter usually getting about a fifth of the total. The fund has come perilously close to running short in recent years, in part because people are driving less but the per-gallon tax has remained frozen for many years.
Faced with that, GOP House lawmakers a few years ago moved to switch the entire amount to roads, something that would have forced transit to battle it out for every other demand for federal general funds. That got squelched when a handful of GOP congressmen from urban areas, including Chicago, revolted.
But the idea has never quite died among GOP conservatives, mostly from rural and suburban districts. the 2012 party platform called for an end to the diversion, but left it at that.
TAKING IT FURTHER
The new version goes considerably further.
After saying that "Our country's investments in transportation and other public construction have traditionally been non-partisan," (see page 4 on the document linked above), it goes on to say the Obama administration "has a different approach. It subordinates civil engineering to social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit."
The clause is quite specific about what it's referencing.
"One fifth of (trust) funds are spent on mass transit, an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities," it says. "We propose to phase out the federal transit program."
"Over 60 percent of central business district workers in Chicago ride mass transit to work. 2 million riders each workday and over 40 percent of the six-county region rides mass transit a week," retorts Kirk Dillard, the chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority here and a Republican who, but for a few thousand votes,might be sitting in the governor's mansion today.
"That is not social engineering, but getting people to work, school and their medical care," he adds, noting that the trust fund first was opened to transit when a fellow named Ronald Reagan was president.
Added the American Public Transit Association in a statement: "Mayors of cities across the country know that public transportation is crucial to helping make their cities competitive. . . .Last year, 10.6 billion trips were taken on public transportation, no small figure."
HOPING TO IGNORE IT
Gov. Bruce Rauner, Sen. Mark Kirk, Reps. Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren and other leading area Republicans declined to comment, perhaps hoping the platform just will be ignored.
But a founder of the House transit caucus, Chicago Democrat Dan Lipinski, said area officials need to remain alert, given when happened in the House a few years ago.
"You don't have too many Republicans in cities," Lipinski said. "They're trying to siphon off the money for their people."
I guess that means real Americans drive biiiiig trucks that slurp down lots of gas. You might want to keep that in mind as the fall campaign unfolds.
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