Chicago rail transit chief’s tragic death highlights tragic rail transit condition

Chicago’s rail transit chief killed by his train – stoopid trains should be killed

tollroadsnews, Editorial posted on Sat, 2010-05-08 00:01

Phil Pagano, 60, executive director of Metra the Chicago commuter rail decided this morning to die rather than face an inquiry into a $56k bonus he’d apparently granted himself last year. That bonus was in addition to his annual salary of $269k.

Pagano wrote a farewell letter, then drove his car to one of his train lines northwest of Chicago, parked and walked into the path of an approaching train. He was gruesomely torn to pieces by the diesel-electric locomotive at the head of one of his commuter trains.

Reports quoted officials as saying the train that killed Pagano had a crew of three and was carrying 24 passengers.

An enormous diesel-electric loco and a train of several heavy passenger cars with three crew and just 24 passengers!

This was 8am, the middle of a weekday rush-hour.

24 people would fit comfortably in a bus with a crew of one!

The bus could cruise the Tollway and expressways downtown without all those multiple train stops – that make nonsense of the train’s ‘fly’ claim – and probably pay its way in fares.

Yet in the wrap-up of the personal tragedy of Pagano the ‘Metra’ train system he developed is praised by local reporters as one of the outstanding commuter rail operations in the US.

This is absurd.

The numbers show that Chicago’s Metra is a pathetic operation – lightly used, grossly inefficient, and a major drain on local resources.

A network of 1100 miles (1770km) of eleven rail lines it carries less than 230k passenger rides/day. That’s 115k/direction in a metro area with about 8m workers. Less than 2% of workers ride Metra.

The outfit is a huge expense to local and national taxpayers.

Taxpayers, federal and state cough up all of its capital expenditures – $5.4b in the last 25 years.

Local taxpayers pay over half its operating costs.

Passenger fares cover a mere $251m of operating expenses of $603m according to this year’s Metra budget. That means every ride on Metra is costing taxpayers $4.30 in operating subsidies.

And they pay a guy $269k a year to manage this ridiculous operation that serves so few at such huge cost.

Compare with the Tollway

Contrast this with the Illinois Tollway.

385 miles (620km) of roadway it carries 2.2m vehicles a day. If the average vehicle carries 1.1 people that’s a ridership of 2.4m or ten times Metra. (REVISION: we earlier used a higher average occupancy number – editor)

And users of the Tollway pay operating and capital costs. They don’t cost taxpayers a cent.

Also the Tollway’s executive director costs $189k/year!

Pagano’s death is a tragedy but his legacy of Metra is a lasting scandal.

Any government serious about efficiency and reducing tax burdens would kill these silly trains – editor.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-05-07

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