Friday, July 9, 2010

CTA circa 1957

I've been accused of being "obsessed" with the CTA. I got all up in arms about the February 2010 service cuts and layoffs, and wrote a paper about the public response (or lack thereof), which led me to some other people similarly obsessed with the CTA.

During that project, I found a book called Chicago's Mass Transportation System, published by the Chicago Transit Authority in 1957. It's a history of the CTA, and I love seeing pictures and stories showing how the city and its transportation has changed.

"For more than half a century, Chicago had been struggling to solve its local transit problems. The situation reached a critical stage in the late 20's when the Chicago Surface Lines and the Chicago Rapid Transit Company became involved in receivership and bankruptcy proceedings.

In 1945, after failure of six separate and prolonged attempts to reorganize the two companies with the aid of private capital, the then Governor of Illinois and the the Mayor of Chicago suggested the establishment of a public authority to acquire, own and operate the city's local transit facilities as the only practical solution of the city's traction problems.
They were convinced that private capital could no longer be induced to support local transit under the conditions that long had existed. The two companies had repeatedly been denied permission to charge rates of fare sufficient to meet advancing operating costs and expenses of modernizing equipment.

Consequently, transit service and transit equipment were below acceptable standards and were continuing to deteriorate. For the Chicago Rapid Transit Company, particularly, the situation was desperate, indeed. It was having extreme difficulty in just meeting its payrolls."

Fascinating! At least I think so. Switch out the private companies for "CTA" and remove the dates, and this could have easily been written today by people bemoaning the current abysmal CTA budget and advocating privatization. It appears that didn't work either, although I wonder what the laws were that put a cap on the fare rate?

Interestingly, when adjusted for inflation, CTA fare rates have been very close to steady since the organization's beginning, except for a period in the 70s when they were kept steady despite rising inflation.

Picture taken by me in 2004 or 2005.

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