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Does Chicago have $2.3 billion to spend on anything? That’s the price of extending the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street, a distance of 5.6 miles–almost $411 million per mile. Much of this money, about half, must come from federal funding that has not yet been approved.

Will this gargantuan project increase ridership, and if so, will this increase pay for the excessive extension? Of course not. The city will be throwing money it doesn’t have down the bureaucratic black hole. That’s what bureaucratic agencies, planners and commissions do best. They always present their most optimistic scenarios, that almost always end up costing more than originally predicted.

Only a relatively small number of commuters would use this extended line. The subject of user fees is ignored because nobody believes that the Red Line extension can pay for itself. Unlike private businesses, public projects do not need to pay for themselves although they should. That is the fundamental problem.

Furthermore, maintenance of this Red Line extension would add to Chicago’s already huge deficit. Indeed, almost a billion dollars a year is needed just to maintain the current CTA lines and that’s just to keep this outdated system from further deterioration. About $12 billion is needed for the current maintenance backlog, which is not even in the Red Line extension discussion.

The CTA Red Line is a mode of transportation that is obsolete. Relying on 19th century technology is a formula for the past, not the future. Spending tax money on boondoggles never seems to deter the overpaid government bureaucrats who are adept at spending other people’s money. That is what they do best.

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