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Shades of Green: a passion for public transit

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Steve Schlickman's connection to public transit started in grade school, when he and his brother took the Metra to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs.

“Shades of Green,” a column on environmental issues related to the UIC community, appears monthly in UIC News.

This month we welcome Steve Schlickman in his new role as executive director of the Urban Transportation Center, leaving behind his job as RTA’s executive director.

Schlickman has taught transportation project funding and finance as an adjunct lecturer at UIC since 1999.

His connection to public transit dates back to grade school.

“My brother and I somehow figured out how to get onto the Northwestern (now Metra) train in Arlington Heights and get downtown, and how to walk to the subway to get to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs,” he says.

“We saw all the ‘greats’ — Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams.”

Schlickman really got into transit after he graduated from Georgetown with a degree in government, but couldn’t find a job in his field. He drove a bus for GUTS, the Georgetown University Transit Society.

“It was a Mercedez-Benz with a small wheel base — really fun to drive, and all the drivers were student age,” he recalls. “It got me into the White House!”

In summer 1975, Schlickman and the other drivers transported a group of high school presidential scholars right up to the door of the East Wing. The sponsor invited the drivers inside and they roamed the public rooms of the White House.

“It was a different age,” he says.

Years later, when he accompanied Mayor Richard Daley to the White House, he was not allowed past the foyer of the West Wing.

After earning a law degree, Schlickman landed his “dream job” with the CTA. He worked in external affairs and legislative issues, learning “the legislative nature of transportation enabling laws.” He became successful at getting federal funds for the agency, working with U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski and other members of the Illinois delegation.

His connection to environmental issues came later.

“I was involved in the writing of the Reauthorization of the Clean Air Act in 1990. It was then that I really got a broader understanding,” he says.

His “short list” as director of the Urban Transportation Center includes looking at resources to better program the funds, working more closely with city/state/regional agencies, and developing a “national niche” of expertise on one topic.

For UIC, he wants better transportation connections between UIC and the Near West Loop, and easier access to payroll transit benefits for the campus community.

Kate Yoshida is program coordinator in the Office of Sustainability.

Steve Schlickman

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