“Public Transportation, When & Where You Need It”

The fight is pretty  much the same as it was in 1974:  Will Chicago succeed in controlling the suburbs in matters of public transportation.

The fight is pretty much the same as it was in 1974: Will Chicago succeed in controlling the suburbs in matters of public transportation.

Most of the 1974 campaign literature from the RTA Citizens Committee for Better Transportation was not stupid enough to make the promise you see in the headline.

But at least one piece, now somewhere in my Regional Transportation Authority archives at Northern Illinois University bears that promise.

Now, forty years after the RTA referendum barely passed–with no recount allowed–a group of folks appointed by Governor Pat Quinn has come out with a report that says there are “transit deserts” in the six-county RTA area.

RTA Transit Desert Trib 2-5-14What a revelation!

Anyone with a brain could do a little research and learn what I found out in 1974.

To make mass transit work one needs a density of about 3,000 per square mile.

In 1974, there were three such square miles in McHenry County.  Two were in downtown Harvard, one in downtown Woodstock.

So, it took no brains at all to predict that the promise of “public transportation, when and where you need it” would not be fulfilled in McHenry County.

And the Chicago & Northwestern (bought by the Union Pacific)

Railroad was not losing money on its commuter service.

That’s why all state legislators representing McHenry County, indeed, all but maybe one in Oak Park and one in Glencoe though out the suburbs joined in opposition to creating the RTA.

 A "kNOw RTA" button from 1974.

A “kNOw RTA” button from 1974.

The referendum was not about transportation outside of Chicago.

It was about subsidizing the Chicago Transit System.


Because not enough money was available to run service during the night.

It was always about money.

One more example of the pecuniary interests of those supporting the referendum.

As the suburban-led campaign named kNOw RTA (we figured the more one knew about the proposal, the more one would oppose it) gained traction with the distribution of 280,000 (or was it 180,000?) pamphlets churned out 24-hours a day on my father’s two offset printing presses in the Crystal Lake Plaza, former Governor Richard Ogilvie took to the commuter trains each night to encourage riders to vote for the referendum.

I circulated a letter to the former Governor in the Illinois House calling for him to promise not to try to  become the bond counsel for the RTA.

Only one person was brave enough to sign on–Waukegan’s Ron Greisheimer.

Guess what happened?

Ogilvie became the RTA’s bond counsel.

Following the money usually works.

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