Thursday, August 09, 2007

CTA softens impact of cutbacks

From today's Chicago Tribune...
The CTA on Wednesday rescinded some of the most severe service cuts and fare hikes threatened for September, but daily commuters still would suffer under the revised plan if new state transit funding is not approved soon, officials said.

The unexpected easing of the service crunch came thanks to $20 million in newly discovered operational savings for this year, said Ron Huberman, Chicago Transit Authority president.

Service overall would be cut by 8 percent, compared with the original estimate of 13 percent announced in May.

Even with the revised plan, however, the CTA would lose 100,000 rides each day as a result of higher fares and reduced service. It also would have to lay off about 700 employees, mostly bus drivers.

In the modified plan, service would be suspended on 39 bus routes, down from the 63 bus routes tapped for elimination in May.

Among the bus and rail routes winning a reprieve:

•Thirteen express routes in Chicago would be restored.

•Yellow Line/Skokie Swift trains.

•The Purple Line/Evanston Express, although offering Purple express service line would be a daily decision based on how well the Red Line operates on adjacent tracks along the North Side, officials said. In another service tweak, the Evanston Express also would make stops at Sheridan to pick up and drop off riders who normally rely on the Red Line, the CTA's busiest rail route.

•Some late-night "OWL" service will be restored.

Fare increases remain on the table, although they would be less than originally projected.

CTA officials canceled plans to raise fares to as high as $3.25 per ride after anguished riders laid out the miseries they would endure under the original plan.

Under the new plan, the current $2 cash bus fare would rise to $2.50. The cash rail fare would increase by 50 cents, to $2.50, during off-peak hours, and increase by $1, to $3, during rush periods.

Fares would go up 14 percent for users of the Chicago Card. Other fare cards, including one-day visitor passes, would rise 11 to 20 percent, officials said.

Only reduced-fare customers would not see a fare increase.

But Huberman said service cuts and fare increases could be canceled on short notice if the funding picture brightens.

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