Before the elevator lifted, my fingers were drenched in purple. The circulation was cut, and I had eight floors to go.
Such are the plights when you are forced to break the world record of most grocery bags in each hand en route to my dime-sized apartment in Chicago. I think I got as high as six per five-digit appendage. If I was light on the canned goods I might have been able to strain to eight.
The hard city life does not always show its love handles, and on occasion I was forced to touch the fatty inconsistencies of the Windy City, and this was never more evident than when I had to take public transportation during harsh winter conditions. Now, I lived two exact blocks from the elevated Red Line, but roughly countless of miles from the Metra line, which schleps working urbanites to the outlying areas to punch the time clock. However, for me to join those employable zombies I had to get up before dawn, take the Red Line 20 minutes south to the Washington Street stop, walk another eight blocks before reaching Ogilvie Transportation Center, which was one of two Metra hubs in Chicago.
I probably could have taken a 20-minute drive to the closest Metra stop from my apartment, but the whole point was to stay far away from anything that could spin out or get stuck in the elements—and parking was always a tough fight. So I railed it, and if the routes had been mapped out in a more appealing way I probably would have befriended the Metra the full five years of my city existence.
Weighing the alternatives
Transportation For America recently released results of a survey that puts Chicago’s handicapped attempt at providing solid public transportation on a common plane. In the study, 59% of the respondents said that the country needs to improve public transportation, including trains and buses, to make it easier to walk and bike to reduce traffic congestion, and four out of five voters said, “The United States would benefit from an expanded and improved transportation system, such as rail and buses.”
Furthermore, a majority thought the federal government should spend more on public transportation.
I would have to agree. When it comes to transportation options, the U.S.—compared with the rest of the world—offers about as much as a sandy desert out in the middle of nowhere. What left a gritty aftertaste in my mouth after Transportation For America’s unveiling was how the message came across. It was very much an us (public transportation) vs. them (road and bridge builders) battle cry. In fact, on the question that addressed the need to improve public transportation, it was pointed out that just 38% said the U.S. needed to build more roads and expand existing roads to help reduce congestion. One thing I did not hear during this statistical prancing was the demand for more money for the next six-year highway bill. Instead, the public transportation sector was just holding a oversized spatula for what it believes is a well-deserved bigger piece of the pie.
During this time of financial unrest when it comes to the next transportation bill, Congress and the Obama administration are receiving a snowy picture of how the money should be spent. This should not be about winners and losers, but about teamwork and camaraderie. What is clear is that the U.S. needs the appropriate funds to jack up the road and bridge network, the transit network, the high-speed rail network, and everything else that can move commerce and people, for a complete overhaul.
Leaning one way or another is not how to handle it. Hopefully I do not have to preach this until my face turns blue.