A good public transportation system benefits nearly all aspects of society. It creates jobs, increases home values, and allows commuters to travel easily and inexpensively. The American Public Transportation Association reported in 2017 that a household can save nearly $10,000 by taking public transportation and having one less car. Additionally, homes located near high-frequency public transit were valued 42% higher than those without easy access. Compared to other nearby counties, DuPage lacks an accessible system of public transit. Although DuPage offers bus services, train routes, and bike paths, these options are extremely limited and poorly connected throughout the county. In 2015, across the United States, public transportation vehicles traveled over 58.6 billion miles. Public transportation is vital to everyday life, and DuPage’s system has quickly become insignificant.
Multiple Metra routes run through DuPage, creating an easy commute for many city workers. However, with lines solely running east and west, limited schedules, and expensive tickets, the Metra can be impractical for many of DuPage’s residents. Metra’s Union Pacific West, Heritage Corridor, BNSF, and Milwaukee District West all run through DuPage, connecting the Western suburbs to downtown Chicago, but the lines are infrequent especially on weekends and fail to create a connection between Northern and Southern suburbs. Workers commuting to and from northern or southern suburbs are forced to find alternate ways to get around. For commuters travelling along Metra lines, ticket costs can quickly add up. A one-way Metra ticket purchased in DuPage County can cost anywhere from $6.25 to $8.25, with a $5 surcharge if purchased on the train.
Alternatively, buses typically serve as a cheaper option to commuting via train with tickets only costing $2.25. However, although Pace buses have 71 routes in DuPage, the buses are organized to either be transportation from residential areas to train stations, or transportation to local attractions. Although buses are a valuable resource for some, there are still many areas of the county, especially many businesses, that are not reachable by public transportation. Designed mainly for commuters, Pace bus routes run more frequently during rush hours, but schedules are sparse throughout other times in the day. Pace services would be more accessible if the fixed routes ran more frequently and to more locations so as to become more accessible for a broader range of Dupage residents.
DuPage’s public transportation, simply put, is underwhelming compared to those of other nearby counties. For example, Lake County has 32 stations and 4 Metra lines, whereas DuPage, whose population is approximately 150,000 greater than Lake, only has 26 stations and 3 Metra lines. In many circumstances, its inadequacy is due to the fact that DuPage County misuses the RTA tax. According to the Regional Transportation Authority Mapping and Statistics, “[T]he RTA sales tax is the primary sources of revenue for the RTA system. The tax is authorized by Illinois statute and imposed by the RTA in the six-county northeastern Illinois region… The traditional RTA sales tax is the equivalent of 0.75 percent on sales in the counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will.” Overall, in 2017, DuPage County collected $155,664,164 to be distributed directly to Metra, Pace, CTA, ADA Paratransit, SCMF, ICE Fund. DuPage is allowed to retain one-third of the RTA tax to be utilized only for transportation and/or public safety purposed. However, in DuPage County, much of the RTA tax is being used to instead balance the budget, and our public transportation suffers as a result. By using these funds appropriately, DuPage’s public transportation system would flourish, resulting in greater benefits for the county.
Those against improving local public transportation may suggest biking for DuPage residence as an alternative to cars, buses, or trains. In fact, DuPage residents often opt for biking as opposed to using public transportation; however environmentally friendly this option may be, various issues ensue. Many bike lanes and paths in DuPage County are inadequate for people whose primary mode of transportation is biking. Even though DuPage offers numerous bike trails designed for leisure and recreation, the county failed to construct safe, clearly designated bike lanes that would effectively benefit riders of all ages, during any inclimate weather conditions. The County Board’s lack of initiative on this issue speaks to how they prioritize county issues. Rather than proposing projects to truly improve this issue, Board members focus on spending taxpayer funds not on infrastructure and development, but on hiring firms and lobbyists to further their own political agendas. Solving the issues with public transportation in DuPage County entails carefully scrutiny of how the Board spends taxpayer money in addition to fervent support of Democratic candidates running in this year’s election. Democrats on this year’s ballot for County Board pledge to serve the people of DuPage, not lobbyists and corporations.