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Amazon's Race to the Bottom Puts Chicago Transit at Risk
The American Prospect
Transit has emerged as a key issue in the furious competition between municipalities to land Amazon’s second headquarters. With the company placing a premium on access to rail and bus networks, cities like Chicago put transit front and center in their applications. “If you look at their proposal, Amazon's, and you look at what they're looking for: talent, transportation, training, technology,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared as the city its unveiled its formal bid last September. “Who [else] will have a transportation system, both public and aviation, that will give them the capacity to get everywhere in the world and get their workers to work conveniently?”
Lost in the discussion to lure Amazon to Chicago are the deep inequities within the city’s existing transit system, fault lines that threaten to leave entire neighborhoods behind should Amazon choose Chicago for its second home base. If overlooking those disparities weren’t short-sighted enough, Chicago’s bid also promises $450 million in new transit projects, funds that neither the city, Chicago Transit Authority, nor the state of Illinois have.
For cities like Chicago, the risks of pledging too many public resources like transit for too little public benefit are high. Instead of offering deeper tax breaks and incentives, Chicago leaders should ask Amazon itself to make investments in transportation and other sectors that will benefit the company, its employees, and the entire region’s residents. “If you’re talking about public goods like transit, it’s not a matter of just how a company benefits from transaction. It’s a matter of community benefits,” says the Center for Neighborhood Technology's Scott Bernstein. “Cities have been missing an opportunity to reframe these competitions as something that could be more beneficial.”View Story
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