Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rewarding citizens for eco-friendly decisions

On my lunch break on Saturday, I chatted with one of my fellow teachers about his new, zippy little car. As it turns out, because his new car is more fuel-efficient than his previous one, he will receive a tax credit around 10% of the car's value. I can't find state-specific information on the credit my friend received, but our government also offers tax credits to folks who purchase gas-electric hybrids and other eco-friendly vehicles.

Today, Sunday, I learned that Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) intends to increase fares in 2009 by more than 20% in some cases. This means that, instead of spending $75 per month for my unlimited monthly pass, I'll have to spend $90. I don't relish the idea of spending more on transportation, and I'm well aware that many Chicago residents can barely afford their present transit costs. Chicago has some of the highest fares in the nation.

(soapbox alert)

So where is the tax credit for public transit riders? Where's the government-sponsored, monetary reward for people who commit to a car-free life?

Car-free residents help ease traffic congestion and pollution. Car-free residents do not contribute to expensive wear and tear on our roads. Car-free residents give their cities freedom to build something besides a new parking garage. (Indeed, car-free residents are the only people who do not bitch about parking.) Car-free residents patronize local businesses within walking distance of their homes. Car-free residents, by riding CTA, help create public-sector jobs with living wages and good benefits.

Thousands of Chicagoans are making these earth-friendly, economical, constructive choices every day. And what do their local, state, and federal governments do? Punish them with higher fares, crumbling infrastructure, and slow service.

Hell, CTA riders don't even want a tax credit! They want stable fares and reliable transportation. And yeah, a little more appreciation and a little less bullshit would be nice.

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