How CTA will spend first installment of state capital dollars

The CTA has big plans for spending about $250 million in state capital expense dollars promised since last year.

They expect to get $253 million of the $1.3 billion promised last year from Illinois. Here's how the CTA plans to spend the cash:

$15.3 million - Mid-Life Bus Overhaul
$60.8 million - Rail Car Overhaul
 $1.9 million - Facility Rehabilitation Program
$57.0 million - Traction Power Phase I
$16.7 million - Rehabilitation of Rail Stations - Systemwide
$12.0 million - Implement Security & Communication
$14.8 million - Security Cameras - Stations & Yards
$12.2 million - Track and Structural Renewal
$45.0 million - Loop Ties & Track
$18.0 million - Viaducts & Retaining Walls - Purple Line
 
$253.7 million total

It's great to see the commitment to repairing viaducts and retaining along the Purple Line. And the emphasis on safety and security continues.

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  • All worthy projects, in my mind. The scary thing - as you picked up last week - is that the CTA is simultaneously redirecting capital fund to pay its operating costs in 2011, to the tune of $113bn.

    Given the system's capital needs - both to maintain a state of good repair and to even consider expansion - doing so is irresponsible. Either Rodriguez or the next CTA president will have to find a way to balance the operating budget without continuously raiding the capital budget.

    I'd start with labor, since that's the vast majority of CTA expenses. Have some balls and take on the union. After that, move on to fares. As much as people might bitch about a $2.50 fare, I'll take it to keep the system going.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    I think you mean $113mn, not $113bn. The difference of which is quite significant.

  • In reply to chris:

    Yes - thanks.

  • In reply to chris:

    You people always focus on raising the first fare. There's nothing wrong with $2.25 for the first fare. The transfer fares are absurdly low. The CTA's ridership reports don't break out transfer fares, but if the first transfer fare is brought up to a dollar and the second transfer fare is anywhere from 50c to a dollar, chances are good that you're recouping more than half a million dollars each weekday. And you're getting the heavier users of the system to pay more of the share they should be paying.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Bob,

    You're wrong here. First, it doesn't necessarily cost more to carry a transferring passenger than a non-transferring passenger. Miles traveled and mode used are much better measures of cost per passenger than transfer use.

    Second, discouraging transfers (which your scheme does) in effect makes it more expensive to provide service. It's cheaper for the CTA to run grid-based routes and force customers to transfer than for all routes to terminate in the CBD (which people would want if a transfer penalty was installed). Eliminating free transfers would likely lead to more long, overlapping bus routes.

    Third, a transfer penalty would make people less likely to use transit - something the CTA definitely doesn't want. While raising the full fares would do the same, the effect would be somewhat mitigated by the fact that the cost is spread among a much wider group of customers.

    Finally, a transfer penalty would hit low-income customers the hardest (since they're the most likely to live in neighborhoods farther from the Loop). From a social equity standpoint, your proposal is really bad.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    But AB, I didn't say it costs more to carry a transferring passenger. I also didn't suggest the CTA would or should change from the grid-based plan. I sure didn't say all routes should terminate in the CBD. I don't think transfers would hurt total passenger counts as much as a first-fare increase because less than 100% of riders use transfers. And I don't think low-income customers would be hurt by increased transfer fares as much as they would be by a first-fare increase. Your first three points are flat-out irrelevant and the others are arguable.

  • In reply to BobS:

    Clearly you failed to understand how my points logically followed your suggestion.

    1. If transfers don't cost more, why charge transferring passengers more? Just to stick it to them? If the CTA is going to change more for certain rides, it should either look to charge more for those rides that cost most to provide or for those that are most inelastic. Transfers fall into neither of these categories. Miles travelled or time of day would be much better measures to use.

    2. If the CTA imposes a transfer penalty, I can guarantee you that residents whose neighborhoods do not have a direct route to the CBD will be up in arms. They will be forced to pay this increase, while riders from other neighborhoods (who have such a direct connection) will not. So either the CTA / city will alienate these residents OR the CTA will change to more overlapping routes terminating in the CBD, to provide direct connections (which is much more expensive). That's my point.

    3. You appear make the (illogical) assumption that the first-fare increase and transfer penalty would be the same amount. Since far fewer riders make transfers (and even fewer would under your plan), the transfer penalty would have to be much higher than a first-fare increase to net the same amount of revenue. So while a first-fare increase hits 100% of riders, it hits them with a much lower fare increase than a transfer penalty. Given that, I would bet that overall ridership would be less impacted with a first-fare increase.

    4. Look at a map of bus routes and tell me which neighborhoods have the fewest direct connections to the CBD. They tend to be very poor neighborhoods, often on the South Side. These are the people you'd be hitting with your transfer penalty (which, as I mentioned above, would be significantly higher than a first-fare increase).

    So yes, you can say that some of my points are arguable, but I don't think they're irrelevant. I'll be waiting to see you point out the benefit of a transfer penalty - something you've consistently failed to do.

  • @ AB: That depends on the state actually supplying operating dollars for once rather than more capital. The state is about 96 mil behind in that bucket (I might be wrong, Jack or Kevin correct me).

    Honestly, I'm one the bunch that could of cared less about a raise...I enjoy what I do. The problem is the seniority drivers seem to feel some sense of entitlement that us juniors unfortunately have to suck up and take. Unfortunately, the union will listen to them.

    So keep one thing in mind AB, not all the drivers could care less...but there are enough that don't!

  • In reply to ctadriver99:

    The numbers seem to be what was reported.

    With regard to CTA getting $253 million of $1.3 billion of the two capital bills, that is only half of the $495.5 million promised in the first capital bill (PL 96-4), which was supposed to be spent in 2009. So, you can see how little the state has done, compared to what it promised and authorized. However, neither the politicians nor the Sun-Times will tell you that.

  • While I'm on the subject of union, did you know that the current contract the CTA shoved down the unions throats, including the raises (which the CTA offered in exchange for a 5 year deal), only to turn around mid contract and say they have no money?

    Most folks don't know that.....and CTA probably doesn't want anyone to know that so long as they can keep the spotlight on the union. But you didn't hear that from me....

  • In reply to ctadriver99:

    No, that isn't a fact. CTA and the unions are always in arbitration. In late 2007, Huberman and Jefferson held a press conference and said that they came to an agreed, expedited conclusion to the arbitration on the condition that the RTA bill passed, which it did in January 2008.

    Now, as the current CTA budget recommendation indicates, tax revenues so cratered that the tax contribution doesn't even cover the pension bonds. I guess that could be expected because the pension bonds were supposed to be backed by the Real Estate Transfer Tax, and real estate sales went into the terlet. Unlike pension contributions, CTA can't default on paying the bonds (at least it thinks). So, that's why they have no money.

    As demonstrated on chicagobus.org., where someone actually posted links to the various arbitration awards on the union website, Jefferson has been selling the rank and file a bad bill of goods. You must have bought them.

  • Raise the cash fare, not the Chicago Card fare.
    The people who pay with cash slow the system down.
    They also cause the fareboxes to work more, which causes them to break down.
    When's the last time you rode a bus with a broken farebox, thus giving you a free ride?
    I haven't seen one in a couple of years. I think that's due to all the people that pay with the various smart cards which don't require any mechanical action in the farebox.
    The cash fare should be at least $4. And I don't want to hear about how that will be a hardship on the poor!
    The CTA constantly has times when the Chicago Card is free. They just need additional places with pay boxes to complete this.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    As I have reported, there won't be any increase in fares through 2011 because of the deal the CTA struck with Quinn and the state. So forget about getting additional revenues there.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    ...unless Schlickman is correct.

  • In reply to jack:

    Who is Schlickman?

  • In reply to chris:

    Outgoing Executive Director of the RTA, who said, while leaving, that if the state does not make up the arrears in its contributions (somewhere about $90 million) the deal to freeze CTA and paratransit fares is off.

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