Did anyone else have trouble following Dennis Byrne’s column in the Monday Tribune? Byrne was assigning blame for the sorry state of the CTA, and I’m not sure he clarified much. He began by explaining that it’s the “Chicago Way” that makes the CTA a “mess,” the Chicago Way dictating that the CTA is first and foremost “an instrument of political power and greed for City Hall and Springfield,” with moving people a “secondary consideration.”

OK. I followed that. But then Byrne went on to say it’s also the “Illinois Way,” which he said is actually the “Democratic Party Way” — though it seems to me that the CTA’s troubles go back to the time when Springfield was run by Republicans. And Byrne said, “Let’s not forget the Organized Labor Way, which for decades saddled the CTA with outrageous work rules and pay demands. Yes, labor leaders have made some concessions, no doubt in the spirit of public interest, and not because they were forced.”  Now I was really confused. Was Byrne mocking the labor leaders or was he trying to give them credit where it was due without making it sound like credit? 

And after that Byrne blamed the “Riders’ Way.” He wagged a finger at us riders for not wanting to pay more of the costs, “even though the bargain they’re getting, courtesy of taxpayers, allows them to ride for not much more than the price of a good candy bar.” Wow, I didn’t know taxpayers were treating me to my CTA rides. Doesn’t surprise me, though. I’ve read that taxpayers are picking up the tab for the war in Iraq, and they’re the ones who’ll pay to repave the Edens. Next time I meet a taxpayer I’ll be sure to thank him. 

And finally, Byrne said the CTA is a mess because of the “Assured Funding Way.” This is the “cultural mind-set” that tries to stabilize mass transit by hooking it up to a reliable revenue stream. These revenue streams can’t be counted on forever, which apparently in Byrne’s eyes makes assured funding a really dumb idea.

Anyway, there are so many “ways” ticking off Byrne that a reader doesn’t know who to blame first. Which means, in an odd way, that there was no point to the column.