Back to Thrilling CTA Days of Yesteryear

Didn’t the “Lone Ranger” television show start with something like that?

When the extension of the CTA from Jefferson Park to O’Hare was being considered, it was right after the Regional Transportation Authority was shoved down the throats of suburbanites.

We lost the paper ballot referendum by less than 13,000 votes, I would remind folks, and the newly-formed Illinois State Board of Elections refused to order a recount, not a surprise because all of the Establishment favored RTA’s tax hikes to bail out the Chicago Transit Authority.

There was no need for a tax hike for mass transit in McHenry County. The Chicago & Northwestern commuter service was not losing money.

Indeed, since more people walked to work then than took mass transit, one could better argue for a shoe leather subsidy than one for people who made 50% more than the average household in the county.

The fight against the creation of the RTA locally (the referendum got over a 90% vote in McHenry County with the only precinct–one in Downtown Cary–reporting a favorable results–and, in that, an election judge told me they reversed the results when they made out their report) stimulated my interest in mass transit expenditures.

I watched proposals for the Franklin Street Subway (eventually scrapped) and the extension of the Chicago Transit Authority to O’Hare.

CTA train from O'Hare puling into the Jefferson Park Station.

On June 22, 1978, I held forth on the House floor on the subject. Since I mentioned passenger service to O’Hare and Mayor Richard Daley has just proposal to build an express CTA line to the airport, I thought you might be interested:

“This will cost $175 million to build. It will again provide virtually no new transportation opportunities because there now is express service from the Jefferson Street Station to O’Hare Airport.

“Alternatives could be put into operation probably in less than a year and cost less than $20 million.

“May I cite the most tempting of alternatives?

“The Milwaukee Road has a West Line running to Elgin, which passes within one mile of the O’Hare Airport terminal.

“The primary purpose of the O’Hare extension is to bring workers to the O’Hare office and business complex surrounding the airport.

“It’s not to bring passengers.

“In fact, according to Joby Berman, who has been the mass transportation expert for the last three governors, which must mean she has something going for her…and I think she has a great deal going to her.

The cars which the CTA intends to spend $600,000 apiece for to run along this line to O’Hare Airport are not even going to contain facilities for luggage. (emphasis added).

“That means the primary purpose of the extension to O’Hare is obviously not to take airline passengers from hotels to the airport.

“Incidentally, if that were the primary purpose, one should consider that 95% of the hotel rooms where people use airlines are on Michigan Avenue, not down in the Loop anymore.”

How will planners operate an express train to O'Hare with only two tracks. Notice the license plate is of a limo in the photo. Presumably after the new concrete is poured, the driver will have less revenue. Click to enlarge any image.

I argued the money to be spent on the extension could be spent on mass transit elsewhere, the South Suburbs being one, or on highway construction.

In addition, I pointed out the line would not pay its own way as far as operating expenses went. The estimated operating deficit at the time was $7.151 million.

A pre-Speaker Mike Madigan, whom I debated the RTA referendum on WBBM-‘s At Issue, was the one arguing against my amendment.

Although the Democrats were in control of the House in 1978, its being after the 1974 Watergate wipe out, the amendment got 57 “Yes” votes. Not nearly enough in the 116 vote House, but respectable, it seems to me.

There is a certain irony in the man who controls concrete maker Material Service heading up the effort.

He was also the person who appeared on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight when the new runway for O’Hare was announced.

Does anyone but me see a certain convergence of Crown’s private interest with his public role?

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman didn’t think it was worth mentioning. Neither did the WTTW moderator.


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