Civic group: Boost gas tax for transportation

By Richard Wronski

An influential Chicago think tank/planning organization is urging the state’s gas tax be increased by 30 cents per gallon. Here are four reasons why:

  • Experts say Illinois needs to invest $43 billion over 10 years to improve roads, bridges and rail lines and tackle a maintenance backlog.
  • Estimates say motorists are already wasting more than that amount on vehicle repairs due to poor roads; time lost in congestion; and loss of population and jobs to neighboring states.
  • The state’s gas tax, currently at 19 cents per gallon, hasn’t been raised in 25 years.
  • The gas tax hike, along with an accompanying 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees, would cost the average person $12.25 a month, or $147 a year. That’s about one  lunch tab a month or a Netflix charge, the argument goes.

The recommendation to begin “an honest conversation” on hiking the gas tax came Monday from the Metropolitan Planning Council, an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit civic group. MPC’s board consists of many movers and shakers from Chicago banks and businesses.

MPC issued a detailed analysis ( of its proposal, which it said it compiled after a year’s worth of discussions with transportation officials and other experts.

It’s not the first call for an increase in the state’s gas tax to pay for transportation needs, either by the MPC or others. Just over a year ago, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, an aggregation of interest groups ranging from labor unions to truckers to local chambers of commerce, urged an unspecified increase in the gas tax along with a…

NY’s ‘Streetfighter’ brings strategy to Chicago

IMG_0198 (2)By Richard Wronski/ Chicago Transportation Journal

“It’s a street fight,” says Janette Sadik-Khan. “It is a fight to make space for people. … It is a fight we can win and it is a fight we must win because when you change the street you change the world.”

Sadik-Khan served as New York City’s transportation commissioner from 2007 to 2013, a tenure that was both transformative and turbulent. She won international renown for her efforts to tame the city’s notoriously clogged streets, turning scores of traffic areas into pedestrian plazas and carving hundreds of miles of protected bike lanes.

But while many considered Sadik-Khan a visionary, others found her divisive. As a top commissioner under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, she was – like him — sometimes faulted for a “my-way-or-the-highway” style of leadership. Her programs drew frequent flak from politicians, businesses and community groups. As expected, the controversial Sadik-Khan was red meat for New York’s tabloids.  One columnist labeled Sadik-Khan the city’s “wacko nutso bike commissioner.”

Through it all, the outspoken Sadik-Khan never fled from a battle with a borough president or a clash with status-quo transportation doctrine. Thus, it’s no surprise she titled her new book, “Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution.”

Sadik-Khan spoke in Chicago Tuesday before more than 100 transportation officials and wonks as part of the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Urban Think & Drink series. It was clear many were fans.

For those not as familiar with Sadik-Khan, here are some takeaways from her address:

Transportation officials…