Welcome! New board chair Peterson has $300 million hole to fill

Terry Peterson hasn't even started his new job as chairman of the CTA
board, and already he may be facing his biggest challenge. As he told
a City Council committee yesterday, the CTA is facing a $300 million
budget gap for next year. The CTA will release its busget at next
Wednesday's board meeting.

Peterson told the Sun-Times
that in trying to cloase the budget gap, he he "can't take anything off
the table -- including the possibility of fare hikes, service cuts and
union givebacks." Great to hear he's going to talk to unions, since
union wages make up the vast majority of the budget. This year
non-union employees had to take furlough days off, saw delays in raises, and
had overtime reduced to help balance the budget.

But listen up folks: We have to prepare to dig deeper into our pockets, and withstand service cuts. Because I predict we'll need both a fare hike and service cuts -- among other fixes -- to balance the budget this year. The state will be in no position -- and in no mood -- to bail us out yet again. 

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  • Time for some union busting :))

  • I'm not an economist, but it seems that the additional funding sources granted to RTA should be quite a windfall in the next economic boom. Can't CTA simply borrow against that expected (big) surplus? If not, then I agree, fare hikes would be preferable to service cuts. I went to St. Louis recently, where the bus system was EVISCERATED by cuts. It was disheartening to see all those blue "bus stop closed" bags over the signposts. And, in the next boom, please, CTA, make yourself a HUGE rainy day fund and DON'T TOUCH IT.

  • Perhaps to put this in context, Pace has already posted a Hearing Notice, which is eerily similar to its Doomsday plan, although not all feeders are on the block. http://www.pacebus.com/sub/news_events/public_hearings/2010_budget_public_hearing.asp Not that CTA recognizes Pace, but this may be a forerunner to what to expect from CTA.

    Also, while acknowledging that the economy is in trouble, and real estate transfers are way down, the 2008 RTA bill could never work, and many of us realized that at the time (i.e. Spring 2007). So, don't expect the legislature to clean up the mess it created.

    MK points out the service increases. In fact, they are not as great as what the RTA said was funded through JARC grants. But it is hard to see how CTA could implement those grants, while, at the same time cutting service elsewhere.

    But the real question was raised by the Tribune story, about Peterson appearing before the City Council to be rubber stamped (again remember the discussion here about that), in which (Rodriguez?) was quoted as saying "The CTA's reputation for wasting money and duplicating service is no longer deserved." He may have made some cutbacks last year, but as most of us on this forum agree, it isn't a matter of reputation--CTA has not taken care of the service duplication issues, especially with regard to Pace, and numerous examples of it wasting money have been documented here (and defended by some). How much is CTA going to pay per gallon for diesel fuel next year, Rich and Terry?

    Finally, MK, with regard to what it would be ludicrous for the state to do, one cover may be Hynes's statements about not just raising the income tax, but imposing a sales tax on services, too. If that is the direction it is going, the state will be flush with cash in no time (unless it so kills the economy that those increases will turn out like the RTA ones). And I would bet that the General Assembly is going more in that direction, than repealing free rides for seniors.

  • Whatever they do, it will probably be a mix of stuff that gets us out of the hole. The things they can do to fix this are:

    1) Eliminate the frequency of routes, but not routes altogether for now. This will be less upsetting to the riders.

    2) Eliminate unnecessary bus stops to increase speed to the point that that less frequency of buses will matter less.

    3) Get Union concessions and create furlough days for non-union workers in 2010.

    4) Get rid of free rides for seniors.

    5) Change or increase fare structure

    I don't have a problem with SOME service increases, because in some cases it brings in additional revenue, especially for popular routes. Also, I think with the new buses there is an opportunity to save more on fuel costs, especially since they no longer have to idle all night long during the cold winters.

  • In reply to chris:

    I said I was going to ignore, you, but in listing:
    "Get rid of free rides for seniors" didn't you previously say that lobbying for that wasn't part of CTA's mission?

    But consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds (as I personally just demonstrated about myself).

  • In reply to jack:

    It isn't part of their mission, but getting rid of them (no matter how it gets done) would help the CTA's financial situation. And anyway, just because it isn't part of their mission, doesn't mean they won't do it anyway. My original point back when you are quoting me is that they shouldn't be expected to do it.

    To be more accurate, I should have said "The things that can be done to fix this are:"

    Thanks for pointing that out.

  • In reply to jack:

    Also, if you are quoting Emerson, you left out a word.

  • In reply to jack:

    Why does the CTA use the Doomsday scenario every year to threathen service cuts? Why can't the CTA look at routes monthly or quarterly and cut service accordingly. I am sure there are routes that do not justifty the cost to run them - like the #64 #69 and #90N.

    The #90N is mostly duplicated by a Pace route. Parts of #90 are duplicated and can be cut back to Grand and Harlem.

    #69 has low ridership is served by #81W and Pace #331 on half of the route. People will just have to walk a bit more.

    The CTA needs to look at how to run routes more efficiently and cut routes that do not meet the cost of oeprating them.

  • In reply to jack:

    Use more TIF district money for capital improvements.Then you might be able to borrow money from the capital improvement budget for operating expenses. The city and county could kick in some money to avert the shortfall.They could do this by starting prepaid property taxes[you pay now because most likely you'll pay more later].

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