Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett made it clear during the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting Monday night that it may be time for additional conversations with Metra.
“We have not heard from them in a while and I think we need to talk,” Bennett said during the session held at the Bedford Park Village Hall. “We are just not getting the train service we should be getting in the southwest suburbs.”
Bennett, who is the longtime president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, said that train service has been lacking in the southwest suburbs. Additional train service was introduced on the weekends but since then Metra has reduced the amount of trains that pass through the southwest suburbs, including Oak Lawn, Worth and Orland Park.
What concerns Bennett and other mayors on the board that with reduced service results in the lack of opportunities, mainly attracting businesses.
“Look, I get it, I know there is no money,” Bennett said. “But for too long, we just seemed to be ignored.”
Metra officials have stated in published reports that increased maintenance costs have resulted in service reductions. This includes eliminating service on the weekends.
During a presentation from a representative from the RTA, it was pointed out that the biggest problem the agency is facing is lack of funding. The official pointed to the fact that they face competition from Uber.
But in regards to Metra, Bennett replied that Uber will never be as competitive with rail.
“We need Metra to be more attentive,” Bennett said. “We need to get more attention from downtown.”
Keith Pekau, who became mayor of Orland Park this year, agreed with Bennett’s assessment.
“One of the reasons our bid for Amazon was turned down was that we were told it was because of a lack of train service,” Pekau said. “So something has to be done.”
Bedford Park Mayor David Brady, who serves as the treasurer for the board, said that the CTA had considered years ago to expand transit line service to Ford City. If that occurred, there should have been extended train service to the southwest suburbs, Brady added.
Bennett requested that perhaps it would be beneficial if representatives could discuss the issue at the next Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the Justice Village Hall, 7800 S. Archer Road.
“Better transit service means better opportunities and more jobs,” Bennett said. “It can be the generator of the economy. Everything seems to stop at the border of Chicago. We have to do something about that.”
On a more positive note, ComEd officials said the engineers could come to examine buildings for brighter and more cost-efficient LED lighting for local communities. That includes street light in local municipalities that could be provided at lower cost through rebates.
Palos Hills has converted to LED street lighting and Bennett said that other municipalities should consider the program
Bennett also commented about another bill being introduced in Springfield calling for a property tax freeze. Bennett said that similar bills have been introduced in the past with few results.
“I don’t think that this bill is going anywhere,” Bennett said.