CTA budget hearing: Much drama, complaints, and finally, comedy

The final public hearing on the CTA's 2011 budget last Thursday was at once a three-ring circus and a touching display of emotions.

From the long-shot gubernatorial candidate to the laid-off bus driver to the old man displaying photos on his camera of "malingering" bud drivers, the night certainly had drama and comedic moments.

The meeting at Truman College was sparsely attended, with perhaps 30 members of the public and another 30 CTA employees on hand. Three board members, including Board Chairman Terry Peterson, and CTA President Richard Rodriguez presided. Actually, they just dutifully listened to each person, and board Secretary Greg Longini really presided, keeping the proceedings moving.

Since Rodriguez earlier had released a budget with no further service cuts or fare increases, there really wasn't much to complain about budget-wise. But that certainly didn't stop people from complaining.

There were bitches about bus bunching and inaccessible Red Line rail stations, including the Wilson stop adjacent to the meeting site at Truman College. That made me wonder why the CTA decided to have the meeting at that venue. One wheelchair-bound woman who lives near the Wilson stop testified that she has to take the #22 Clark bus to Addison, and get the elevator to the platform there to ride the Red Line.

Riders complained about plenty of bus operators, for sins ranging from not stopping for passengers to driving too fast. One passenger in particular was very agitated about the bad attitudes of drivers. And she had many examples that she only too happily shared with us all.

One woman shared her many gripes, and then later her mom got a chance with the microphone. Mom turned the mike back over to daughter, who again meticulously covered complaint after complaint, before Longini stepped in and demanded the mike back, saying she could share her complaints with various CTA department heads who were present. This prompted a screaming outburst, and then tears from the woman. Longini finally convinced the CTA brass really would listen to her - after the meeting. It was both excruciating and sad.

The highlight of the evening was the testimony of a laid-off bus operator. He told the CTA brass about his struggles being out of work, but his hope for the future.  He was funny, thoughtful and emotional. And he ended his remarks by asking Rodriguez and the board members for his job back, and then shook everyone's hand.

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  • My usual reaction is why are irrelevancies allowed at hearings, but the Wilson stop not being accessible and the hearing being held at Truman are actually relevant. The budget is supposed to have a 5 year capital plan, and if something is needed with regard to capital, it is fixing up the North Main, including not only the deteriorating concrete north of Wilson, but a mess of a Wilson station designed for when it was the end of the line. Truman College demonstrates that there is actually a traffic generator there, and looking at the Ridership Report, it is almost up there with Howard.

  • In reply to jack:

    Wilson is getting $3 million for rehab from the Wilson Yard TIF. Not enough for elevators, but they are going to spruce it up as well as bring the gates down to the 1st floor to prevent the loitering going on there.

    Wilson gets enough riders (in spite of its condition) to deserve some funds.

  • I remember Reader coverage (I'm thinking somewhere around '98-'99-'00) that explained the CTA had decided that as long as buses all were accessible, stations didn't need to be. It's criminal -- but that just makes it one line on a long list in this city.

  • In reply to BobS:

    The actual issue is what the DOT's ADA regulations, in 49 C.F.R. Part 37, mean, especially those dealing with accessible transportation facilities, and key stations on rapid transit. Since the latter had deadlines in 1992-1994, if CTA said that when you thought so, it would have been in violation of the law. Hence, I doubt that they said it.

    The issue seems to be the one about that if federal funds were used to make facilities alterations after the specified dates, those facilities have to comply with the ADA, as opposed to, in this instance, whether an existing facility should be altered to meet the ADA. That was also debated when a couple of Green Line stations in Oak Park were not substantially rehabbed, and were not made accessible.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm glad we agree it's a violation of the law.

  • In reply to BobS:

    I agree it's unfortunate, but the issue here is funding, not preferences. Creating an accessible station is very expensive, and the CTA is not exactly rolling in money these days.

    The CTA is slowly making stations handicapped-accessible (e.g., the entire Brown Line), but must do so as part of major renovations. That way they can incorporate accessibility into broader station improvements, and use federal funds to pay for part of it.

    As Jack said above, the North Main line is in dire need of a massive overhaul (stations, track, bridges, etc.). Once that is completed, all these stations will be ADA-compliant.

  • Heheh.

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