Gov. Quinn last week picked a longtime politico to sit on the CTA's board--and he doesn't live anywhere near a CTA stop.
Quinn nominated Frank Zuccarelli, a 20-year supervisor of Thornton Township in south Cook County, to replace John Bouman, who is leaving the board after nearly four years. Zuccarelli, who resides in South Holland, did not return a request for comment.
At least one of the members of the seven-member CTA board has to live outside Chicago city limits, according to state law. But every board member should have easy access to the CTA.
The CTA board meets once a month to vote on important rider matters that range from fare hikes to bus service changes.
The board often makes these decisions based on presentations by CTA officials and agency reports. Some members ride the CTA regularly and some do not, according to CTA records.
They should, though: Knowledge about the CTA should stem from more than just ridership numbers and budget information. Decision-makers should know what it feels like to stand on a crowded train or wait for a bus and have three arrive at the same time.
While the governor's office was tasked with finding an appointee who lived in the suburbs, there are plenty of places the CTA travels beyond city limits. The Purple Line goes to Evanston; the Yellow Line to Skokie; the Green and Blue Lines to Oak Park.
None of the CTA bus or rail lines goes to South Holland.
A Quinn spokesman said Zuccarelli would represent an area that is underserved by the CTA.
"[Zuccarelli] comes from an area that would be made significantly more accessible to public transportation by the proposed Red Line extension," spokesman Grant Klinzman told Going Public. "He will be a very strong advocate for a region that is quickly growing and underserved by public transportation."
The CTA long has proposed extending the Red Line to 130th Street. The agency is currently improving the southern portion of the line as a step toward this extension but the project has yet to be fully funded. The CTA referred questions about the appointment to the governor's office.
When asked by GP why Quinn chose Zuccarelli, Klinzman didn't mention whether Zuccarelli has any transit experience. He does have experience sitting on boards and panels.
Last year, he was one of a handful of political appointees who lost his full-time pay and benefits after Cook County commissioners last year voted to end these perks for members of the county Zoning Board of Appeals and Employee Appeals Board.
He's also the chairman of the South Suburban College Board of Trustees.
The appointment requires state Senate approval. If Zuccarelli is approved, he is slated to make $25,000 a year.
Starting July 1, Chicago Card users who pay per ride will start paying $5 to ride trains from the O'Hare Blue Line station, instead of the typical $2.25 fare. The CTA board voted for this increase as part of last year's budget, but Chicago Card users were given a six-month reprieve from paying the fee as the CTA worked with O'Hare employees to get fare cards. CTA riders with unlimited passes don't and won't have to pay the increase.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Polk Pink Line
Not much to poke at the Polk station on the Near West Side. The stop has multiple Train Trackers, elevator and escalator service, weather protection and sweeping views of downtown Chicago from its platform, though the glass on some of the windows has been etched with graffiti. The station received an overhaul 30 years ago, in 1983, so it doesn't look its age, which is 117. Timeless, even.
Next up: Midway Orange Line