Recently, the Chicago Sun-Times challenged Illinois politicians and lawmakers to ride the rails for one week.

The paper asked them to ride the CTA el trains and buses, the Pace buses, as well as the Metra. Can you see all these politicians taking public transportation to and from work, and all their assorted appointments for one week?

However, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Sen. President Emil Jones and Republican leader Sen. Frank Watson have been slow to respond to the challenge, perhaps distracted by the sound of the Midas mechanic rotating their SUV tires.

Nevertheless, it was a novel idea.

As many of us who rely on mass transit probably know by now, Springfield lawmakers have pulled their pockets inside out to reveal little more than lint for CTA’s transit budget.

The CTA has been very public in presenting its “Doomsday Plan.” The clock is set to strike on Sunday.

CTA officials want lawmakers to make a last ditch attempt this week to save nearly two dozen bus routes scheduled for elimination, and to spare riders fair hikes.

If not, thousands of passengers who use the system daily, especially many African-Americans, will be at an extreme disadvantage.

Among the routes and buses scheduled to be cut: 55th to Austin, X3 King Drive Express and X28 Stoney Island Express (So, East Side commuters, your ride will be a bit slower now).

Also up for the chopping block is the X54 Cicero Express and 85A North Central bus.

The bad news doesn’t just end there though. Don’t forget those fare hikes for commuters who feel they just don’t pay enough for fare cards.

Chicago Card users will be charged $2 per ride and $2.50 cash to take the bus. A 30-day pass will also go from $75 to $84.

This means that for those who need the CTA to attend school, work and entertainment venues, you are going to have to shell out more money in fares for less service and increased commute times – priceless.

My initial inclination was utter disdain. This is a transit system that’s already flawed-even the youngest of riders know that the “beep beep” sound on the el signals a delay. This is a system that has riders running for their lives behind buses pulling off because they know they won’t see another one for another half hour or longer. This is also the system that thinks nothing of shuffling passengers from one bus to another because of “equipment failures.”

I know those who drive feel that the cuts don’t really effect them. “They need to get a car anyway!” some will say. However, the cuts will hurt drivers as well.

Think about it: the fewer bus lines means longer commute time for everyone, even those who drive because now there are more drivers on the road and slower buses to drive behind.

Longer commute times will eventually hit them in the wallet, since now they have to spend more money on gas. It’s a cycle that just goes around and around and around.

The thing that lawmakers have apparently forgotten is that these riders, waiting at poorly lit bus stops during the most bitterly cold evenings or the most sweltering summers, are the voters.

They are the ones who elected them and have contributed to their ability to afford those pricey SUVs. Yet, the voters are the ones that are going to have to deal with the “budget crisis” that they had no part in creating.

Is this the same city with “pipe” dreams of hosting the 2016 Olympics? We can’t even figure out a way to get Suzie to her job without walking seven blocks to the nearest bus line; how are we going to build an Olympic village and commute athletes from Quebec to-and-from downtown. It’s a fallacy.

And speaking of Olympic Village – where is the money for it going to come from? That’s right: Taxpayers. Not all of whom drive SUVs.