Chess game begins on CTA budget; let your voice be heard

The CTA has played the opening gambit in what could be a long chess game. There's still much more chess to be played. This game is not over.

For openers, the CTA announced last week that it had found $122 million of the $300 million needed to plug the 2010 budget gap. Then Monday, the CTA announced a big fare increase and cuts in service hours, scheduled to take effect Feb. 7, 2010.

Now the fun begins.

The CTA has clearly stated it wants its operator and other unions to come to the table to negotiate wage cuts. The CTA has announced 1,000 union layoffs due to cuts in service hours. But it says some or all of those jobs could be saved if the union is willing to talk.

So that's Option 1.

Option 2 is repealing free rides, which the CTA says will cost $65 million next year. Mayor Daley put that option on the table  in his commentsTuesday. Unfortunately, Dalye ran into a brick wall on that one named Gov. Pat Quinn. He supports those free rides. And this is an election year after. So that may not be a realistic option.

Still, I really don't think the budget announced Monday is the last word. Just the fast that it doesn't go into effect till February tells me the CTA is trying to buy some time to negotiate.

So yes, time is on our side. It's time to tell the CTA and the state what we think of this budget. Click the continuation for information on public hearings starting Oct. 29.
Copied straight from the CTA Web site:

The Chicago Transit Board will consider the proposed budget at its
November meeting.  It will also be presented to the Cook County Board
in November, as required by the RTA Act.  The Chicago Transit Board
must submit a balanced budget to the RTA by November 15th and the RTA
must approve budgets for the service boards by year end.

CTA customers and the general public will have the opportunity to
provide comments to the Chicago Transit Board on the President's 2010
Budget Recommendations at three budget meetings.  All are scheduled for
6:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 29, 2009
Austin Town Hall
5610 West Lake Street
Chicago, IL 60644

Monday, November 2, 2009
Lane Technical High School
2501 West Addison Street
Chicago, IL 60618

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
South Shore Cultural Center
7059 South Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60649

Written and oral comments will be taken into consideration prior to
the Chicago Transit Board's approval of the 2010 Budget and Program,
the 2010 Capital Program of Projects, and the Financial Plan.  This
input will be welcomed at the meetings or by correspondence addressed
to Gregory P. Longhini, Assistant Secretary of the Board, Chicago
Transit Authority, P.O. Box 7567, Chicago, Illinois 60680-7567. Input
also can be sent via e-mail to: Greg Longini.

The deadline to submit written comments is November 10, 2009.  

The proposed budget is available for public review at the CTA's
General Office, 567 W. Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60661, second
floor, weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.  Regular and large print
copies are also available at this location. Copies will also be
available at the main office of the Regional Transportation Authority,
reception desk, Suite 1550, 175 W. Jackson, Chicago, Illinois 60604. A
copy of the proposed budget is also posted here on the CTA's web site..

Comments

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  • Option 2 seems the most problematic. On one hand, I believe that Daley is a much more powerful politician than Quinn. On the other hand, based on other State House actions yesterday (like 53 representatives caving to Stroger on the number of votes needed for a veto override, including my rep, who appears to be a straight-line tool of Mike Madigan), it becomes a wild card, depending on what Madigan decides. With Julie Hamos setting her sights elsewhere, there is really no transit advocate left, and it is likely that this proposal does not see its way out of committee, and thus wimp reps like mine won't have to declare on it.

    Option 1 may save the jobs, but probably won't save much service. My question is that since someone here is using union rhetoric like "fight for your own pension," does the old rhetoric of "solidarity forever" also apply, or, as usual, those with less seniority are no longer "one of us."

  • With regard to the hearings, they are just theater unless someone actually comes up with a way to generate $100 million or some significant portion thereof.

    However, the best theater will undoubtedly be at the paratransit hearings. Pace previously said that the hearing notice was for a $4.50 city paratransit fare, because they should hold hearings for the maximum allowable, but their budget, posted at pacebus.com yesterday, now says that they actually need the $4.50, or whatever is twice the base bus fare, if, for nothing else, to suppress demand.

  • Maybe Daley is laying low until he's ready. I don't think Quinn is that powerful either.

    Does CTA current fare collection equipment support peak/off-peak fares? Of course setting when in the day the peak/off peak should be is another story and it's still a fare increase for many people but perhaps it could make passengers go to work earlier/later or come home earlier/later if their employers allow it.

    I also agree that senior fares should be 'brought' back especially if seniors are willing to fork it over vs. driving.

    I know it's not popular because transit is supposed to serve all areas especially poorer areas of the city where private car ownership is lower but does it make sense to anyone that CTA should run service for the sake of few passengers? Other cities and countries use privately operated and state/city regulated passenger vans that charge a flat rate upon boarding and drive a fixed route to a central transit hub like a park and ride or train station. Sort of like the Airport Express/Super Shuttle - shared vans will provide local livery businesses a new market, use less fuel, and can be run more efficiently than a bus. The schedules won't be the same but it's a way of letting CTA cut bus service but still have a backup plan for those impacted. Yes it will also reduce the ranks of the CTA Bus Operators but doesn't that happen anyway when bus service is cut?

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    In your last paragraph, you are suggesting something like the Pace community transit model. However, the only place Pace has implemented it in substitution for bus service is West Joliet. There, a small paratransit (operated by a contractor) roams the area, and the driver has a cell phone number for taking requests. There is a timed transfer point with the fixed route bus. Go to pacebus.com and put 510 into the Route Finder.

    Also, Booz-Allen suggested something like a community service instead of buses in the areas beyond Jefferson Park and Midway stations, as part of its 1997 cutback plan, but nothing ever came of that.

    The difference seems to be that you are suggesting a jitney, instead of a Pace contractor.

  • In reply to jack:

    I didn't know about the suggestion from 1997. Too bad we've had the SOS for the last 12 years ... politicians only will do things that get them re-elected and jitney service must be seen as some sort of take-away from our entitled society. The books I've read on transit indicate smaller service vehicles are successful in urban areas. NYC still runs a lot of private shared vans to and from Manhattan to drop off points in the Boroughs. We only seem to have this service to/from the airports.

    I went to Pace and looked at the 510 - that seems like the last step before no service unless I missed something. I would favor the Atlantic City Jitney model (I remember riding that little bus as a kid with my parents) before ACity went crazy w/ gambling. The other model I've been on is Nassau Bahamas - where the bus travels down a route picking people up and once it's full, it runs express to a transit hub. Either way it's better than losing service altogether and it reduces the footprint of CTA's responsibility. That said, if we reduce the less popular routes to jitney, what will be the solution next year (and the year after that). We are not solving our main issue which is to secure decent funding, less dependence on receipts for income (the ratio), and overall labor expense reduction especially if the percent is higher than what would be standard for a heavy rail and bus transit system.

    For the short term ... one other idea I thought of was to lower the price of the monthly pass (or keep it the same as it is today if they increase other fares) to give frequent riders a break if they go monthly and to reduce the cash transactions done at the farebox or card machines at CTA stations and various locations in the City. Plus it would give monthly pass holders a break if the City went to peak/off-peak tier fares.

  • In reply to jack:

    Of course he supports it. After another term he can come home and get free rides!

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    The C.T.A. could sell flattering photo I.D. cards to make money.This is not as redundant as it seems.Many places want more than one photo I.D. for verification,often diffult to produce if you don't a driver's license or are driving on a ticket.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    That should be" difficult "for all the posters that fly into a tizzy at the sight of a typo.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    I HOPE THEY TAKE OPTION 2...WHY? BECAUSE ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE FREE RIDE THAT I KNOW...ARE ALWAYS CLAIMING ABOUT THE SERVICES OF CTA! MANY TIMES I SAW PEOPLE FIGHTING (FREE PASSENGERS)WITH THE DRIVERS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T STOP WHERE THEY WANT TO; I THINK THIS "KIND" OF PEOPLE THINK THEY HAVE A "SPECIAL POWER" OR MAY BE THEY FORGOT THEY ARE IN A BUS AND NOT IN A TAXI! EVEN I KNOW A LOT OF THIS "KIND OF PEOPLE" WHO JUST TAKE THE BUS FOR FUN...JUST TO TALK WITH THE DRIVER...JUST BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE NOTHING TO DO ALL DAY!

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    How about A and B? Then CTA can avoid stealing from capital funds, and actually use that money to improve the system.

  • In reply to 20fie18:

    Ordinary people could sponsor buses and trains.Their picture ,along with others, would appear on a bus or train wrap.There would be a choice of photographs,artist's rendition or caricature.Photographers and artists could donate their talents.The C.T.A. could wrangle various art grants to pay for supplies.The C.T.A. could also sell coffee table books,calendars and postcards of the wraps.
    People could also sponsor vehicles for their pets.

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