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Editorial: Use TIF to Fund Transit Improvements in Chicago

The Chicago Tribune supports the use of tax increment financing to fund a $2.1 billion project to revamp the Red and Purple lines on the CTA system in Chicago.
October 8, 2019, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Ben Schumin

Capital investment is an expensive proposition for transit systems in the United States, and the Chicago Transit Authority is no different. The city recently broke ground on its largest ever transit project, a $2.1 effort to modernize the Red and Purple lines. 

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board weighs in on the project, praising the city for investing in public transit  "in an era when many people are inclined to look to their Uber or Lyft apps for a ride."

Also earning plaudits from the Editorial Board is the city's use of tax increment financing (TIF) to help fund the project.

In 2016, City Hall endorsed the use of tax increment financing to help fund the project. It marked the city’s first use of TIF dollars to finance transit needs. Under a TIF, a project is paid for using the incremental tax dollars generated by rising property values on the surrounding land. In this case, that land is a 6-mile long, mile-wide corridor from Devon Avenue in Rogers Park to North Avenue in Lincoln Park.

Despite the skepticism among Chicago residents about TIF ("and for good reason," according to the Editorial Board), the editorial makes a case that TIF is the right tool for the right job in the case of the Red and Purple Line modernization project.

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Published on Monday, October 7, 2019 in Chicago Tribune
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