Making Mass Transit a Top Priority

By Director Christopher C. Melvin, Jr.

With the recent elections having taken place, it’s time to look ahead at issues that matter to us and our region. What issues are a priority to us? I would hope that the issue of public transportation moves all of us (no pun intended).

The mention of public transit makes many think only of Chicago but in truth, our system benefits our whole region and state.  Ours is the second largest transit system in the country, providing two million rides each day. Can you imagine those riders back on our already congested roads? The RTA region serves six Illinois counties and 277 municipalities.  Roughly 62 percent of all who work in Chicago’s economic engine, our central business district, ride mass transit to work. Ride or not, we all benefit from our system.

Still, in an environment with so much to distract us, so many serious issues to consider, why should we think about public transportation? Because public transportation is chronically underfunded and has been for years. And, it is critical to our region’s growth and sustainability.  Rider fares and sales tax dollars just don’t add up to enough to fund each ride, and that was true before the state started cutting funds. Ribbon cuttings and new transit stations can’t happen without state capital programs and billion dollar investments in a system that dates back many decades, some more than 100 years. So, why should you care?

Public Transit:

IS GOOD FOR OUR ECONOMY

Providing a $3 to $4 return on a $1 investment

IS GREENER and ENHANCES LIVES

Using transit reduces the number of cars on the road (congestion) and hence pollution thereby reducing the carbon footprint and climate change.  You may have seen reports for a recent DePaul study showing that each Metra rider provides a value to non-riders of more than $4,000 annually by reducing congestion and increasing safety. That same study shows that each hour a Metra train operates during the peak period with passengers who would otherwise be driving a similar length of time adds more than $5,700 in value by providing these riders the ability to engage in a wider range of activities, including both work and personal tasks, than is possible behind the wheel. This is in addition to any monetary savings to these riders from using Metra.

SAVES LIVES

Traveling by commuter and intercity rail is 18 times safer for passengers (measuring fatalities) than traveling by car according to a study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

SAVES MONEY

The average annual savings is $12,000 for a person who switches his or her daily commute from driving to taking public transportation, according to another APTA study.

As newly elected officials take their place and re-elected officials go back to work, it’s important to remind them that public transportation is high on our list of priorities. We all live in this region together. We benefit from CTA, Metra and Pace in so many ways—now is the time for change, let’s stand up for public transit.

About Director Melvin

Christopher C. Melvin, Jr. was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in September 2012 representing the City of Chicago. He serves as Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee & serves on the Compensation & Human Resources Committee.

Mr. Melvin is the Chairman and CEO of Melvin & Company, a Chicago-based institutional research and trading firm that he founded in 1989. He previously served on the Board of Governors for both the Chicago Stock Exchange and Boston Stock Exchange. He is also a former member of the Board of Directors for the Securities Industry Association (SIA) (now SIFMA).

Mr. Melvin began his career at the Chicago Stock Exchange where he worked in Clearing Surveillance. Between 1981 and 1983, Mr. Melvin served as the assistant trader for Risk Arbitrage at Shatkin Investment Company (Chicago), later moving to a floor member of the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

Mr. Melvin holds a series of financial certificates including Series 3, 7, 24, 53 and 63 licenses. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C.