Monday, October 08, 2007

More CTA cuts coming

This time it appears to be worse than it would have been if they hadn't postponed the proposed cuts and raised the fares last month. Unfortunately since there's still a personality clash going on in Springfield I wish CTA, Pace, and Metra (agencies of the Regional Transit Authority) can get some more money to avoid having to make these painful changes.

Here's an article from the Tribune...
The Chicago Transit Authority this week will unveil a new and more severe round of service cuts and fare hikes to take place Jan. 1 unless the stalemate over state transit funding is broken.

The latest CTA "doomsday" scenario comes atop announced service reductions, fare increases and employee layoffs already scheduled for Nov. 4, when 39 bus routes would be eliminated and fares boosted to as high as $3 per ride.

It's a sure sign that, at a time when mass transit in the Chicago region should be in a vigorous expansion mode to combat choking traffic congestion and the failure to meet federal standards on controlling hazardous air pollutants in all six metro-area counties, the Regional Transportation Authority system is moving in the wrong direction.

On Wednesday, CTA President Ron Huberman will present two 2008 budget alternatives to the transit agency's board. One proposed budget is contingent on new funding; the other, under the no-new-funding scenario, slashes more service and increases fares well beyond the Nov. 4 contingency plan.

Early this year, RTA officials ordered the CTA, Metra and Pace to pass 2007 budgets based on the risky assumption that the state would approve $226 million in new operating subsidies for transit. It was a questionable move at the time by the RTA, which is responsible for providing financial oversight.

Today, the RTA's gamble looks much, much worse. Relatively mild service cuts and fare hikes that would have taken place earlier this year to balance transit agency budgets -- if indeed such measures were really necessary to convince state lawmakers of the pending transit meltdown -- will pale in comparison to what may lie ahead.

Others share the blame with the RTA, however. When disagreement in the legislature over funding sources blocked passage of any new money for transit over the summer, Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) was first to call on the CTA to postpone service cuts and fare hikes set for Sept. 16, in order to buy time for a deal.

Subsequently, Gov. Rod Blagojevich came up with a plan to get the CTA and Pace through their 2007 budget crises by advancing money to the transit agencies that they are counting on in 2008, a move that critics denounced as nothing more than a "payday loan."

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