At a time of possibly massive service cuts, fare increases and employee layoffs, the CTA won its board's permission Wednesday to explore financing the lease of 150 new buses in a proposed $120 million deal.
"This certainly appears to be a big disconnect," CTA president Ron Huberman acknowledged about the megadeal, which comes at a time of possible sacrifice.
But he said he would only ask the transit agency's board to move forward on the bus lease if the state approves new transit funding to help erase a projected $158 million CTA deficit in 2008, and if the bus-financing package is affordable.
"But we cannot run the CTA without the equipment to operate the CTA," he said.
Huberman called the deal to acquire 150 diesel-hybrid articulated buses -- at a discount of about $60,000 per bus -- a fleeting opportunity made possible because the King County Metro system in Seattle didn't exercise its option to purchase the buses.
The CTA would then get rid of 200 of its oldest buses, saving $6.9 million a year in maintenance, labor and fuel costs, he said. The CTA's oldest buses have been on the road for 16 years, logging an average 580,000 miles apiece.
Money saved through lower operating costs would be directed toward the bus lease, which includes the additional advantage of allowing the CTA to write off the depreciation of the vehicles, Huberman said.
The CTA is preparing to cut 81 bus routes, lay off 2,400 employees and raise fares on Jan. 20 because of the continuing budget crisis. There are no signs from Springfield that legislative leaders and Gov. Rod Blagojevich are close to resolving a transit funding impasse that has dragged on for most of the year.
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