CTA President Forrest Claypool hinted at his own priorities for his first months on the job during an interview with the Tribune published Monday.
Though Claypool was a little coy and careful not to criticize the previous CTA president, he did touch on many of the issues we wrote about yesterday and that you noted in your own comments:
CTA finances: Claypool said finances were a "ticking time bomb," with the CTA borrowing money to fund operating expenses, as they did with the state bond issue almost two years ago. He also bemoaned the fact that capital funds have been moved to the operating budget - something his predecessor had to do twice to avoid red ink.
Finding more dollars: Claypool avoided answering a question about whether he would support an eight-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase to provide much needed operating funds. But he did hint at how he might find capital dollars to meet the CTA's $7 billion budget hole on the maintenance and repair:
We need to perhaps find public-private partnerships that will bring new capital into the system.
We are going to look under every rock and every stone to find every
dollar we can because that is what is going to determine whether this
system can be brought back to a state of good repair so that in the long
term we can provide the type of service where people will want to ride
the system and ridership will go up because of the experience.
Luring new passengers: Claypool
said it's important to "create a good experience" to convince residents
to ride the CTA rather than drive. He cited his own experience as a CTA
rider: "When the slow zones got better or worse, that affected my
experience. The same thing with safety and cleanliness."
On bus rapid transit:
He freely admitted that Chicago's bus rapid transit project would be
more like "BRT light." He did note the importance of including prepaid
boarding and bus-only lanes in the pilots tests, which are not there
Transit agency cooperation: Claypool noted that technology
advances should make it easier to issue a common fare card across the
CTA, Metra and Pace systems. He also suggested expanding the shared use
of existing infrastructure - such as the Metra's Electric Line - until
the Red line extension is funded and built.