September 19, 2011

CHICAGO (Sept. 19)—UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy will join state and local transit leaders Tuesday when they gather at Chicago Union Station to demand that Congress exempt mass transit from its next round of budget cuts.

And he’s asking UTU members to join him and make sure the media get the message.

“Our jobs are at stake, and so are the jobs of others who depend on transit to get them to their urban workplaces” Guy said. “Cutting transit will be extremely disruptive to the local and national economy.”

The “Don’t X Out Public Transit” rally was called to protest the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s recent proposal to cut 35 per cent from federal highway and transportation funding.

“Highway transportation as we know it cannot survive that volume of cutting, and transit, which is in a much weaker condition, could virtually disappear,” Guy said. “We have to send Congress a very blunt, immediate message: ‘Hands off our transportation systems.’”

The rally is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., the start of the evening rush hour, in the station’s Great Hall at 251 S. Clinton St.

Guy will appear with a host of luminaries, including Regional Transportation Authority Executive Director Joe Costello; former RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman, now director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois, Chicago; Brian Imus, state director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group; Gideon Blustein, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s Infrastructure Council; Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance & Riders for Better Transit; Joanna Trotter of the Metropolitan Planning Council; Bob Kelly, Local No. 308, Amalgamated Transit Union; Jennifer Henry, Natural Resources Defense Council; and Michael Stern, Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“These organizations have come together to make sure Congress understands that transit is not discretionary but is fundamental to the success of the U.S. economy,” Guy said. “I am appealing to all UTU members in the Chicago area who are not on duty at 4 p.m. Tuesday to join this rally and help make our message clear.

“Newspaper reporters and photographers and TV crews will be there,” Guy said. “We need to show our strength and make ourselves available for interviews.”

Guy said UTU members who work at Metra are daily witnesses to the importance of transit in keeping the Chicago metropolitan economy working and producing. If interviewed by the media, they can testify to the speed, safety, convenience and economy with which their trains carry people to and from work.

“If those workers do not have Metra to take them to work, the only remaining mobility resource they will have will be the highways, which already are backed up at peak travel periods,” he said.

“If those Metra passengers are forced to drive to work, thousands of man-hours per day in productive work time will be lost as displaced rail riders sit stalled in traffic—-on roads which will deteriorate further because they too will be stripped of essential funding. Even if those people were to drive, the city lacks the parking capacity to store their cars while they’re at work. The effect on the Chicago economy will be like a nuclear bomb.”

Further information on the campaign to oppose the transit budget cuts is available at