Monday, January 7, 2008

a letter to my state legislators

I'm sending this through SaveChicagolandTransit, though I may print and mail it, too.

I'm taking the time to not send the typical form message preprinted here because of how important transit it to me--I want you to know that by my taking the time to write this. I hope you'll take the time to read it.

I'm legally blind. I can see well enough to read regular books, but I don't see well enough to drive. My vision problem is genetic and cannot be corrected.

I grew up in Kankakee, where I had to rely on friends and family for rides. They implemented their current bus system after I started college.

I attended college in Decatur, where I again primarily relied on friends for rides, though I did take the bus there occasionally.

I did my graduate school work at Illinois State, where I lived in the town of Normal and relied heavily on the bus system to get me to and from the university and for running errands. For big things, like grocery shopping, I primarily relied on friends.

When I searched for a job after graduate school, moving to Chicago was my dream. I knew I needed to be in a city with a good public transit system, and I hoped for a job in Chicago. My dreams were realized.

I've been living in the city for almost four years now and depend on the CTA for my trips to and from work, to and from the grocery store and Target, to and from friends', and to and from fun and cultural destinations throughout the city.

When I say that I "depend" on the CTA, I mean that. Because of my low vision, I'm too nervous to ride a bike around the city for fear of being hit by a car. I'll never be able to drive a car, and if I could, I would still take public transportation because I believe in the benefits to the environment. Chicago is a great place, but I can't walk everywhere.

I started a new job in Lake Forest in the fall of 2006, so now I also depend heavily on the Metra to bring me to and from Lake Forest, like many of my colleagues do.

Though I qualify for services for the disabled, such as Supplemental Security Income and reduced fare transit for people with disabilities, I don't take advantage of any of these services. I make a fine living and believe those services should be saved for those with lower incomes than mine. I can afford to pay full fare to ride the CTA and Metra, so I do. Please know that I'm not one of those people "milking" the system. In fact, I rely on the CTA to take me every Saturday morning to the clinic where I volunteer, helping many low-income women in the city have access to affordable healthcare.

I hope you can see from what I've written what an important impact public transit, particularly in the Chicagoland area, has and does mean to me.

Right now, I'm scared.

I'm scared that the huge cuts and fare hikes (as I'll be affected by both the CTA and Metra fare increases) that are looming in less than 2 weeks. I wonder how overcrowded CTA and Metra will be when I need to get around the area. I wonder how long I'll have to wait in the cold for a bus because there will be fewer on the road. I wonder how much farther I'll have to walk to get places (this is an important concern, as well, as I have pretty serious asthma).

I know a lot of people throughout the state won't be affected by this budget crisis one way or another, whatever happens in Springfield, but thousands of us in the Chicagoland area who have no choice but to depend on transit will be greatly affected. Honestly, the thought of how much longer commuting may take makes me nearly cry tears in frustration.

I hope you'll do whatever you can to help revise the fare structure in Springfield that provides funding for mass transit in Chicago, and I hope you'll do whatever you can to prevent the deep service cuts Chicagoans are preparing for on January 20th.

I follow the work of the CTA with interest, and I believe that Ron Huberman and his staff have done a lot to not only improve the CTA (since his start as president) but to cut spending where possible. I don't know what more they can do to prove to Springfield that the CTA is committed to the best service at the best price.

I ask you now: what will Springfield do to prove to the CTA (and Metra and Pace) that its committed to the people of Chicagoland and their needs for transportation?

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