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Coronavirus CTA, RTA, Metra, Pace: Bailout will help, but more cash needed soon

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As airlines, hotels and big industry line up for a massive share of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package approved late Wednesday by the Senate, we’re glad to see the nation’s public transit systems — a key, but oft-overlooked economic player — are in line for $25 billion in emergency funds.

Don’t pop the champagne corks just yet. At press time, the package is still awaiting approval in the House.

But even if passed into the law, the cash infusion is by no means a panacea for mass transit. Urban areas would receive only $16 billion from the package. Rural areas would get the remaining $4 billion.

The country has nearly 1,000 transit systems — including the CTA, Metra and Pace suburban bus — each socked with steep COVID-19 related declines in ridership and revenue, along with increased maintenance and sanitation costs. And the agencies are likely to hemorrhage millions more over the next few months. They could be in need of another substantial cash infusion by summer if the virus lingers or ridership doesn’t bounce back soon.

“Definitely, it’s going to be helping,” said P.S. Sriraj, director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Every transit system in this country has taken a hit. But we don’t know how long the hits will keep coming.”

For Chicago: A massive need

Mass transit is the lifeblood of big cities, moving millions of people back and forth daily. But the nation’s systems have been financially stricken for nearly a month due to the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders caused by it.

The CTA this week said it is losing more than $1 million a day as normally packed rush hour buses and trains roll around the city carrying little more than the operators behind the controls. Ridership is down 70% compared with this time last year, according to the agency.

Metra, meanwhile, is faring even worse. Ridership is down 90%, prompting the commuter rail agency to run trains on less-frequent weekend schedules seven days a week.

CTA and Metra are also subsidized by revenue from taxes on gasoline, real estate transfers and public transit set-asides. These sources are headed downward due to the pandemic. Those lost funds, in addition to heightened maintenance costs, could be staggering.

“We anticipate hundreds of millions of dollars lost over the course of this crisis,” the CTA said in a statement. “We anticipate that the financial impact on our operations will continue after the immediate containment measures have ended.”

Chicago hasn’t yet figured out how much it needs of the $25 billion federal pot, but New York, suffering an 87 percent loss in public transportation ridership, has. Big Apple transit officials are looking for a $4 billion bailout — a quarter of all funds set aside for urban areas under the package. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA has cut back subway service by 25 percent.

When the money arrives

Whenever it arrives, the $25 billion in federal funding is earmarked to cover the transit agencies’ lost revenue, personal protective equipment purchases, sanitation and reimbursement for operating costs.

The bill calls for agencies to adjust their operations to take into account that fewer people will be riding buses and trains. but it doesn’t stipulate how they should do this. Both Metra and the CTA say they don’t intend to lay off or scale back the number of transit workers.

Another transportation sector, the airline industry, is making off better in our view. Air carriers would receive $25 billion in direct financial aid under the measure. Though a larger industry than public transit agencies, privately owned airlines at least have access to credit and tremendous borrowing power.

Still, mass transit is a $76 billion concern that employs 420,000 people across the nation. Lawmakers must continue working to make sure the industry gets its fair share, particularly if future coronavirus stimulus packages are needed.

A renewed commitment to public transit?

If there is a bright note in all this, it’s that the emergency stresses the need to protect public transit in Chicago and across the country. Even before the outbreak, the nation’s financially beleaguered bus and rail systems needed $230 billion “to get up to snuff,” said Sriraj. In this region alone, about $90 billion is needed he said.

Sriraj hopes the stimulus package becomes one in series of infusions — perhaps a renewed commitment — to funding mass transit.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said of the package. “But it doesn’t get anywhere close to the need.”



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Crime Data Shows Coronavirus Pandemic Isn’t Slowing Violence Across Chicago – CBS Chicago

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The coronavirus pandemic is not only straining resources in Chicago hospitals but also on the streets. Despite the stay-at-home order, police responded to 19 shootings Tuesday night, six of which were homicides.

Overall crime was down in the last week, but robberies and shootings were up. The Chicago Police Department superintendent said the violence is draining the department’s resources that should be used to fight against COVID-19.

Tooth brushes, deodorant and toilet paper are packed in to ziplock bags and passed out on the street in West Garfield Park because the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago hopes providing those essentials will encourage residents to stay home.

“Not everyone is heeding it,” said Teny Gross, executive director at the institute. “So many young people have not.”

“In one ear and out the other,” said Shelbe Brown, with the institute.

Gross and Brown spent Tuesday evening responding to shootings.

“Yesterday was a horrific night,” said Gross. “The violence is not going down as much as it should.”

Six people were killed in shootings across the city. That follows a trend from last week.

According to data analyzed by the CBS2 Investigators, shootings were up 42% from the same week last year, from 28 shootings to 40.

“We’re fighting the pandemic, and we’re fighting the epidemic,” said Tony Raggs with the Alliance of Local Service Organizations. “The epidemic being violence.”

CPD data shows that last week, robberies were on the rise, too. Meanwhile Wednesday, the area near Madison and Kostner was bustling with groups gathering on the sidewalk — business as usual.

Gross said drug trafficking appears to being thriving despite the stay-at-home mandate.

“You don’t become cured out of your addiction just because now there is a virus,” he said. “And when there is addiction and demand that means there will be supply as well.”

So now they’re focusing their efforts into a full-fledged public health campaign.

“We know what’s up, and we need everyone to act on that,” he said.

Interim Supt. Beck said CPD dispersed more than 300 groups Tuesday night across the city.

There was a significant drop in criminal sexual assault and theft across the city last week.

CBS 2 will continue to track this crime data throughout the pandemic to get a full picture.



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Loretta Lynn chronicles strong bond with Patsy Cline in new memoir

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn only knew each other a short time before Cline’s death at the age of 30, but the friendship formed between two trailblazers of country music is enough to fill a book.

Lynn’s new memoir, “Me and Patsy: Kicking Up Dust,” which was released Tuesday, chronicles their unbreakable bond as pioneering artists whose music spans generations, as well friends who leaned on each other through good times and bad.

“We were two bad ones. If she’d still be around, we’d probably both be in the pen,” the 87-year-old Lynn, said while laughing in a phone interview with The Associated Press from her Tennessee home.

Cline, one of the most powerful and recognizable voices in country music, took the Kentucky singer-songwriter under her wing in the early ’60s. The two became quick friends, bonding over their music, their marriages and motherhood. At the time they knew each other, Cline was reaching the peak of her career with crossover hits like “Crazy,” while Lynn was just starting out.

“Patsy was always there to tell me what was right and what was wrong,” said Lynn. “She was my big sister that I never had.”

Lynn, whose previous memoir “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was a best-selling hit and adapted into a Golden Globe-winning film, co-wrote the new book with her daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell.

The two first met shortly after Cline was badly injured in a car accident in 1961, just months after releasing her song “I Fall To Pieces.” Cline heard Lynn singing on the radio and asked her to come to the hospital to meet her.

“Bless her heart. I could tell she was in a lot of pain,” said Lynn. “Her arms and her head were all bandaged up. And it broke my heart.”

Patsy Cline became best friends with Loretta Lynn in the early 1960s.

Patsy Cline (pictured) became best friends with Loretta Lynn in the early 1960s.
File

Lynn was there for support when Cline struggled to hide her scars from the wreck. Cline also taught Lynn not to get pushed around by men in the business, telling her she should demand to get her concert payments up front and that she should confront male artists who pinched and touched her backstage.

“The men knew exactly what Patsy thought and they’d try to get away with things with me, you know? But she’d seen them act funny, and she’d tell them off,” Lynn said.

Cline and Lynn shared everything, like sisters. Cline showed Lynn how to shave her legs for the first time, taught her how to drive and gave Lynn dresses to wear on stage. Lynn even has a pair of lace panties that Cline gave her as a way to spice up Lynn’s marriage.

“I’ve got a pair of panties that she gave me that I wore for four years,” said Lynn.

But as Cline’s career was at the peak with songs like “Crazy” and “She’s Got You,” disaster struck. Cline was killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee, on March 5, 1963, as she was heading home from a show. Her manager, Randy Hughes, and country stars Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins also died.

In the book, Lynn recalls sitting by Cline’s coffin at the family’s visitation and hearing Cline still talking to her.

Lynn never stopped thinking about the advice Cline gave her and it guided her as her career blossomed in the ‘60s and ’70s, becoming a huge star with hits like “The Pill” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” She recorded tribute albums for Cline after her death, wanting to make sure fans remembered the late singer.

Even five decades later, the bond remains strong for Lynn.

“She’s on my mind all the time,” she said. “A lot of times, not even expecting it, but I’ll be sitting and thinking and I’ll see Patsy. I know a lot of people don’t believe that, but she’s with me all the time.”



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Disney Plus streaming service hits 50 million paid subscribers months after launch

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BURBANK, Calif. — Disney+ has surpassed 50 million paid subscribers just five months after launching, the Walt Disney Company announced Wednesday.

“We’re truly humbled that Disney+ is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year,” Kevin Mayer, the chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, said in a news release. “Great storytelling inspires and uplifts, and we are in the fortunate position of being able to deliver a vast array of great entertainment rooted in joy and optimism on Disney+.”

Disney+ initially launched in the United States in November 2019 and rolled out in eight Western European countries and India in the past two weeks.

Disney+ is the streaming home to Disney’s vast library of entertainment content, primarily featuring films and television series from five of the company’s core brands: Walt Disney Studios, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and National Geographic.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of this station.

Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.





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